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Russia proposed Syria summit draws mixed reactions from international community

November 27, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hugs with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) in Sochi, Russia on 21 November 2017 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency]

A Russian proposal to host a Syrian peace conference in Sochi has drawn mixed reactions from the international community, with Iran, Turkey, Germany, the Syrian government and opposition factions taking different positions on this issue.

The latest attempt to achieve Russia’s stated desire for a political solution to the six year-long war was agreed upon by Iran and Turkey in a meeting at Sochi last week.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke positively of last week’s summit and said that a future peace conference would be “a step towards stability and security of Syria”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also confirmed his agreement to back the conference: “We hope that this fruitful cooperation between our countries will have a positive effect on the whole region and reduce tensions and the risk of sectarian disintegration in the region.”

Read: Russia to reduce forces in Syria by end of the year

However, the decision has otherwise been met unfavourably, with a top member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government dismissing the suggestions as hypocritical on Friday.

“It is the height of cynicism that, of all countries, Russia and Iran, which fuelled the civil war in Syria in their own interests, causing the deaths of thousands of people, now want to develop a political vision for Syria’s future,” foreign policy speaker Juergen Hardt said, according to Reuters.

Similarly the Syrian opposition has rejected the conference, stating that it did not serve the political process and instead called on Russia to abide by the UN-sponsored Geneva track to arrive at a solution.

In recent weeks, opposition groups have also restated their demand that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad be removed from power, a demand that Russia has side-lined.

The Syrian regime has, however, also rejected the notion of talks until opposition groups cease fighting against the regime.

Read: Ex-Syrian opposition figure: We were asked to accept Assad or leave

“The success of the congress depends on the various opposition groups realising that the time has come to stop the violence, lay down their weapons and engage in a national dialogue,” Bouthaina Shaaban, senior advisor to Al-Assad said over the weekend.

More than half a million people are believed to have been killed since 2011, the vast majority by the Assad government and allied forces. The regime has also used chemical weapons against civilians and prevented aid from reaching those affected on the ground. UN officials further estimate that some ten million people have been displaced as a result of the fighting.