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Russia says 1,600 people invited to Sochi peace talks on Syria

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Russia says some 1,600 people have been invited to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi next week for the Congress of National Dialogue aimed at resolving the years-long crisis in the Arab country.

“Invitations have been sent and continue to be sent to Syrian participants, some 1,600 people will receive such invitations,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova during a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday.

Last December, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to hold the congress in Sochi on January 29-30. While the Syrian government at the time immediately announced that it would attend the event, 40 Syrian “opposition” groups rejected the Russian initiative, which also is aimed at agreeing on a post-war constitution in the Arab country.

According to Zakharova, international observers, including those from the UN, will participate in the congress along with Syrian parties. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will also attend.

Earlier this week, Syria's main opposition group, the Saudi-affiliated Syrian High Negotiations Commission (HNC), announced that it would need further details before it could make a final decision on whether to take part in the congress, which dozens of opposition armed groups have already rejected.

Kurdish opposition group not to attend Sochi congress

Meanwhile, a Kurdish opposition group, which is active in the northern parts of Syria, said that it would not take part in the congress since it had not received a formal invitation.

Previous rounds of Syria peace talks, which took place in the Swiss city of Geneva, failed to achieve tangible results, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that the Syrian government cede power.

A parallel peace process between Syria’s warring parties in the Kazakh capital Astana has resulted in significant achievements instead, leading to ceasefires and the establishment of de-escalation zones across the conflict-ridden country. The Astana talks have been brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey.

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