Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Lavrov, de Mistura discuss Syrian National Dialogue Congress

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura looks on before the start of talks on Syria in Vienna on Thursday UN envoy Staffan de Mistura looks on before the start of talks on Syria in Vienna on Thursday
Andrew Cummings | 28 January, 2018, 00:40

Representatives from Assad's government have refused to meet the opposition directly until they drop demands that he leave office.

"The meeting was good", the head of the Syrian government delegation, Bashar al-Ja'afari, told Reuters as he left the U.N. offices in Vienna in the afternoon after talks with U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Ahead of an SNC press conference on Saturday morning there was little detail about why the opposition had ultimately chose to boycott Sochi, though spokesman Yahya al-Aridi earlier described the talks in Vienna as "tough".

"This round of negotiations was an global test for the regime, and the test ended yesterday (Friday)", the opposition Syrian Negotiation Commission's Nasr al-Hariri told reporters in Vienna Saturday.

"We invited Lebanon to the Sochi summit meeting", Russian Ambassador Alexander Zaspkin said in a news conference after the meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege for four years with 393,000 people cut off from receiving humanitarian aid.

The boycott comes to the backdrop of escalating violence in northern Syria, where Turkey is attacking a Kurdish-held enclave.

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The Turkish intervention - its second in a conflict that has drawn in multiple world powers - has heightened tensions with Ankara's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally the United States, which has backed the Kurdish militants in their battle against the Islamic State group. Despite several countries voicing alarm, including the US, UK and France, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday the offensive would not stop until those he considers "terrorists" are cleared.

This has forced tens of thousands of people to flee.

Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian Negotiations Commission, this week said it would need further details before it could make a final decision on whether to attend the talks, which dozens of rebel factions have already rejected.

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

The UN spokesman indicated that Guterres had received assurances that the Sochi conference would not seek to sideline the UN talks.

The focus in Sochi will be on hammering out a new constitution, according to the opposition, something that de Mistura also wants discussed in Vienna.

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