Syrian opposition groups have rejected Russian-sponsored talks scheduled for 18 November in Sochi, favouring instead a UN-led initiative in Geneva. Having intervened decisively in the Syrian war in 2015 in support of President Bashar Al-Assad, Moscow had hoped to build on the collapse of Daesh and launch a new political process towards ending the six-year-long conflict.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the idea of the Russian-sponsored congress for post-conflict Syria negotiations. Anti-Assad opposition groups, however, have rejected the proposal, insisting that discussions over a political settlement and a new constitution should take place under UN auspices.
While Damascus has said that it is ready to attend, Mohammad Alloush, a member of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and a senior official with the Jaish Al-Islam rebel group, ridiculed the move, saying that it was a meeting "between the regime and the regime".
The HNC said that it was surprised to be mentioned in a list of groups invited to the congress. "We will issue a statement with other parties setting out the general position rejecting this conference," Alloush told Reuters.
Meanwhile the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) opposition said that the congress was an attempt to circumvent "the international desire for political transition" in Syria. "The Coalition will not participate in any negotiations with the regime outside Geneva or without UN sponsorship," insisted SNC spokesman Ahmad Ramadan.
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