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UN to send envoy to Syria peace talks in Russia's Sochi despite opposition boycott

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, attends a press statement at the UN office in Vienna on January 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has decided to send his special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to an upcoming Syrian peace conference in Russia next week, a UN spokesman says.

Guterres "is confident that the congress in Sochi will be an important contribution" to revive the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva, Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday.

The UN decision to send its envoy to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi comes despite the Syrian opposition’s calls for the boycott of the event.

The next round of intra-Syrian national dialogue between Damascus and the opposition would commence in Sochi on Monday. On Thursday, Russia said some 1,600 people had been invited to the talks aimed at resolving the years-long crisis in the Arab country.

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 is also aimed at agreeing on a post-war constitution in the Arab country.

Representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition attend the UN-sponsored peace talks in Vienna on January 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

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 event, which dozens of opposition armed groups have already rejected.

Eight 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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