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Syrian 'opposition' dismisses initiative to hold congress in Sochi

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Syrian opposition representatives attend Astana peace talks on December 22, 2017. (AFP photo)

Forty Syrian "opposition" groups have rejected a Russian initiative for holding a congress with the participation of Syria’s conflicting sides in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next month.

In a joint statement on Monday, the so-called Syrian opposition faction which also includes Ahrar al-Sham and US-backed Mutasem Brigades, said the congress is aimed at undermining a parallel UN-backed Syrian peace talks in Geneva.    

"We completely reject Russia's attempt to circumvent the Geneva track," the statement said.

"We call on all forces to stand in one rank against these alarming dangers," the opposition faction noted.

On Friday, Russia and Iran, both allies of the Syrian government, agreed with opposition-backer Turkey to hold a "Congress of National Dialogue" in Sochi on January 29 and 30.

Syria's government immediately announced that it would attend the event.

Syrian Kurdish and Christian parties voiced support for the Sochi initiative on Tuesday, calling it their “right” to attend the congress.

Representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition attend the UN-backed peace talks in Geneva on December 14, 2017. (AFP photo)

The eighth round of Syria peace talks mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey, was held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana on December 21-22 with the aim of finding a diplomatic solution to the six-year conflict in Syria.

The new round of Astana talks focused on buffer zones, humanitarian aid and freeing prisoners, the ministry said.

Last week, the eighth round of Geneva peace talks had ended with no tangible progress.

Previous rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the UN in Geneva over the past five years have failed to achieve results, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should cede power.

However, the talks in Astana, which began in January, have comparably resulted in significant achievements, including ceasefires and de-escalation zones that have reduced fighting in Syria.

The fourth round of the Astana discussions in May resulted in an agreement on four de-escalation zones across Syria.

The Astana process has also helped strengthen a countrywide ceasefire, which took effect in December 2016 after Aleppo was recaptured by government forces in a major victory against militants.

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