United Nations hosts fresh Syria talks in Vienna

Envoy of the Secretary General for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks

During the meeting attended by the Russian president's special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev as well as Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, the officials of Iran, Russia and Turkey also known as guarantor states made the final arrangements for holding Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.

Before the SNC announcement, United Nations officials said they were still "evaluating the situation" before making a decision as to whether to attend the Sochi talks.

"The ultimate goal of a constitutional process is to enable the Syrian people to freely and independently determine their own future in a United Nations -supervised parliamentary and presidential elections meeting the requirements laid out in resolution 2254", de Mistura said.

Meanwhile Russian-backed Syrian troops have been carrying out an offensive since late 2017 in the northwest region of Idlib, the last province still fully outside government control.

Having regained the upper hand in the nearly seven-year civil war, President Bashar al-Assad appears far from ready to negotiate with foes at all, let alone step down as part of any peaceful solution as rebel groups have demanded.




The Vienna meeting comes a few days before Russian Federation convenes its own Syrian peace congress in Sochi.

But the Syrian government's envoy to the talks, Bashar Al-Ja'afari, dismissed the document as "totally unacceptable".

There have been eight previous rounds of failed UN-backed talks in Geneva.

"Our people have not and will never accept a solution that is parachuted onto them or that is carried on tanks", he said in a statement to reporters. "The conference will be attended by about 1,600 participants who will reflect the various components of Syrian society", he added. "In this congress, which will help Geneva negotiations, we will discuss the political solution issues based on UN Security Council resolution 2254", he said.

Haid Haid, a consulting research fellow at Chatham House think-tank, said Russia's long-term strategic interests were at play in Sochi.

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