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Russia: Sochi Congress Is To Reinforce Geneva Process, Not Replace It

Jan. 10, 2018 (EIRNS)—The official Syrian opposition is putting on the diplomatic pressure to try to reduce Russia’s role in the Syrian peace process. A delegation, led by Nasr Hariri, the head of the opposition’s Geneva negotiating team, is in the U.S. hoping to persuade the Trump Administration to counter Russia’s weight in Syria. "All of us, all of our countries are waiting for an American role" in finding a settlement to the nearly seven-year war, Hariri told AFP in an interview. The United States is "the most important player in the Syrian fight, the only state that can make a balance with the Russian influence," he said. While in Washington, they hope to meet with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as well as officials at the State Department and members of Congress.

Yesterday, they were in New York, trying to convince U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the UN should not participate in the National Dialogue Conference that Russia is organizing for Sochi. Hariri said he was told by Guterres that no decision had been made yet on whether the United Nations would take part in the Sochi conference, a move that would bring credibility to the Russian-led effort. Hariri also indicated that no final decision has bene made yet on whether or not the opposition will boycott the Sochi congress. Hariri claims that the Russians will use the Sochi meeting to hijack the Geneva process.

The Russians, however, continue to present their efforts as reinforcing the Geneva process, rather than being separate. Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, characterized the Sochi meeting, yesterday, in those terms.

"We assume it is in the interests of the United Nations to participate since Sochi is not an isolated event, and should contribute to the UN-sponsored process,"

he said, reports Tass. According to Nebenzya, Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the National Dialogue Congress "is not an alternative" to the Geneva process as the Syrian opposition assumes. "We are telling it to all, from Secretary-General to Staffan de Mistura, to all participants, Syrian government and opposition and other member-states," he said, adding that the goal of the upcoming forum is to "enhance the UN-sponsored process in Geneva aimed at political settlement in Syria."

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