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  • The Syrian Congress mediated by Russia and Iran was expected to provide a peace deal.

    The Syrian Congress mediated by Russia and Iran was expected to provide a peace deal. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 February 2018

Participants at the Congress agreed to set up a committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution in Geneva and to hold democratic elections.

The Syrian government has rejected United Nations-led efforts to form a committee to rewrite Syria’s constitution, a central demand of the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue held in Sochi, Russia last month.

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A representative of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Ayman Soussan, said during Tuesday's press conference “we are not bound by anything that is formed by foreign sides, whatever their name or state, we are not bound by it, and it is of no concern to us.”

The Sochi congress was convened and organized by the Russian government, who have urged the international community to avoid direct military or other interference in Syria's seven-year-long civil war. The Russian Government has repeatedly accused the United States and its allies of attempting to use the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands and created even more refugees, of trying to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.

Roughly 1,500 Syrians participated in the Sochi congress as representatives of various Syrian civil society groups representing different ethnic, religious and tribal groups, political forces, and external and internal opposition, including the armed resistance, made their positions known. Representatives of the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party did not attend due to Turkey’s opposition, while the Syrian government didn't send a representative because they consider the government to be legitimate.

Initially, the Syrian opposition refused to participate in the Sochi talks opting instead to further the U.N.-led Geneva talks. However, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura joined Russia's, and Iran's attempts to mediate negotiations hoping they would revive Geneva’s peace process.

On Jan. 30 participants at the Congress agreed to set up a committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution in Geneva and to hold democratic elections in Syria. Progress, considering that during the Geneva process opposition groups had demanded that president Assad step-down. The constitutional committee would be formed by 50 members, including government, opposition, and independent organizations.  

Also on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States was acting in a “dangerous way,” undermining Syria’s integrity through unilateral actions.

The Syrian government had previously said it would welcome the results of the Sochi congress, but Soussan’s statement makes it seem unlikely, leaving the peace process with no certain future.

 

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