Sochi: Various groups of Syrian society to meet ‘for the 1st time’ – Russian envoy

Sochi: Various groups of Syrian society to meet ‘for the 1st time’ – Russian envoy
For the first time, various groups of Syrian society will have a forum to discuss the country’s future together, Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy to Syria told RT, as the forum in Sochi begins its work.

“All groups of Syrian society will be attending, all those concerned about Syria’s fate,” Aleksandr Lavrentiev said in an interview with RT. Nearly 1,600 delegates are expected to arrive in Sochi, where the Syrian National Dialogue Congress will take place January 29-30.

“Delegations have started to arrive,” Lavrentiev said. “Invitations have been sent out not only to the groups, ethnic and religious, but also individually,” the envoy added, referring to the Kurdish representatives.

Although the Saudi-Arabia based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a group representing the opposition, refused to come to the congress, part of the group “has decided to participate on an individual basis,” Lavrentiev said. Still, “invitations are on the table,” the envoy emphasized. “Hopefully, common sense will prevail and [the HNC] will decide to arrive.”

It is also “a very good signal” that the UN, as well as the world powers, have agreed to send their delegates. Apart from the UN Security Council permanent members, including the US, the UK, France and China, regional actors have been invited. Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have confirmed their participation.

The sides will be discussing ways of political regulation in the war-torn Syria. “The delegates will have a voice on how they see reaching peace in the country,” Lavrentiev said. Another goal of the Sochi forum is “to select candidates for a commission to draft a constitution.”

The results will be given to the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, for further implementation. De Mistura has already arrive in Sochi and will hold preliminary consultations with the Russian delegation, Lavrentiev said.

Despite Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, the situation has been “stable,” Lavrentiev said. “There have been fewer provocative acts in the de-escalation zones in eastern Ghouta, Homs and Idlib,” he noted. “We hope the atmosphere at the congress will be positive and constructive.”

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