Executive Intelligence Review


Syrian National Dialogue Congress Sets Stage for Progress in Peace Negotiations

Feb. 1, 2018 (EIRNS)—The success of this week’s three-day Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, Russia, will have far-reaching implications. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, during her regular briefing yesterday, stated that the Dialogue came off despite predictions that it would fail, and despite the “numerous negative events” in the runup to the Congress.

“We hope that the decisions adopted in Sochi will become an asset of the intra-Syrian negotiating process under UN auspices in Geneva and at other locations, to facilitate the Syrian peace process involving Syrian parties, primarily the Astana format,”

she said. She also said that among the 53 foreign observers accredited to the conference, were representatives from the U.S., U.K., and French embassies in Moscow—contrary to earlier reports which had denied there would be a U.S. observer mission.

Alexander Lavrentyev, the Russian special envoy for Syria, observed that despite the Riyadh-based Syrian Opposition Negotiation Commission’s “decision” not to go, eleven members of the SNC were present as individual delegates, rather than as members of the SNC.

“I hope that gradually, more and more members of the armed opposition realize the need of taking part in an intra-Syrian dialogue, and become motivated to end hostilities and engage in dialogue.”

Lavrentyev stressed that Russia is not operating on the principle that if someone didn’t go to the Congress, they no longer have a right to participate in the settlement process, including in the future committee to negotiate a new Syrian Constitution.

“Too many people are afraid of expressing their real point of view, sometimes because they fear for their lives. Sometimes they publicly refuse to attend an event, but deep inside they are willing to take part. We give them this chance—the chance of further participation in the settlement process,”

he explained.

Lavrentyev also said that some of the moderate opposition groups that attended brought “interesting ideas” to the Congress. “I think that members of those groups have a political future in Syria,” he said. He apparently didn’t specify which groups he was talking about, but TASS reports that among the opposition groups in attendance were the Astana platform (led by Randa Kassis), the Moscow platform (led by Qadri Jamil), the Tomorrow of Syria movement (led by Ahmad al-Jarba) and the Syrian National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (led by Haytham Manna).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone yesterday on the Sochi congress, and both hailed its success. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are guarantors of the Astana process for Syrian peace.