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Cairo-based opposition will not attend dialogue congress in Sochi: Interview

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Head of the National Coordination Committee, said that the current negotiating body to Geneva and the Coordination Committee reject attending the Syrian Dialogue conference in Sochi at the end of January. 

Hassan Abdul Azim said in a statement to Zaman al-Wasl that this is the position so far. He explained about the ninth round of the Geneva Talks, which was scheduled by the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura for January 22, 2018. 

The ninth round aimed at ensuring the unity of the opposition and revolutionary forces, learning the international positions towards the Sochi conference, learning if there is agreement or a lack of agreement about holding the conference, if the United Nations and the UN Envoy will participate or not, and if the conference will involve discussing the release of detainees, lifting the siege on areas, cementing truces and supporting the political solution developed in Geneva or will there be an alternative about for it.

The head of Cairo Platfom said, “After this apparently and in light of the upcoming meeting between the negotiating body and de Mistura and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, either the situation remains the same or it will change.” He continued stressing that until now the negotiating body and the coordinating committee reject the Sochi conference.

“The ninth round of the Geneva negotiations, to be held before the Sochi conference, will be a test of the regime and Russia delegations’ positions,” said Abdul Azim. 

The eighth round of the Geneva negotiations ended on December 14, 2017, and the UN envoy accused the regime's delegation of foiling that round of negotiations. Regarding that round of negotiations, Abdul Azim said the regime had “missed a golden opportunity” because of its refusal to talk to the opposition.

He said that although the opposition was represented for the first time by a united delegation in Geneva, “we did not see genuine negotiations. He added, “I have to say that the opposition did that.” 

In the last round of the Geneva negotiations, the UN envoy informed the opposition delegation of the need to be “realistic.” The UN envoy reminded the opposition delegation that they had lost international support and warned that the failure to achieve a breakthrough on the issue of the constitution would make the opposition’s position very weak during the Sochi Conference.

De Mistura said that “it will disappear and be lost there.” Observers described this as an attempt to pressure the opposition to participate in Sochi. However, Yahya Aridi, the opposition spokesperson denied this at the time, saying “I think the UN envoy wants to succeed, and when Geneva succeeds the UN Envoy succeeds, and the United Nations and its resolutions succeed. I do think he that will allow him to market any other event done anywhere else, the place is Geneva.”

The main components of the opposition are refusing to attend Sochi. The secretary of the political body of the National Coalition, Yahya Maktabi, said in a press statement earlier that Russia is not qualified to sponsor a conference aimed at bringing peace to Syria. He pointed out that during the eight round of the Geneva negotiations, Russia rejected pressure placed on the regime to engage in direct negotiations. 

He added that Russian aircrafts continue to assist the regime in targeting civilians and residential neighborhoods.

As a confirmation of this position, some 40 military factions, including Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham movement, issued a joint statement in which they categorically rejected the Sochi conference. The Southern Front adopted the same position, while the Syrian Islamic Council issued a statement rejecting the Sochi conference and considered that those who participate in Sochi “will be committing political suicide.” 

Several factions, some of which participated in previous rounds of the Geneva negotiations, said that Russia is seeking to circumvent the UN-sponsored peace process in Geneva and to renew its commitment to reaching a political solution according to the statement of Geneva one and the related international resolutions, including resolutions 2254 and 2218.

Last Friday, Russia, Turkey and Iran- the guarantors of the cease-fire agreement in Syria- agreed at the end of the eighth round of the Astana negotiations to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Conference on 29 and 30 January.

Zaman A Wasl- Hussein Al Zoubi
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