The Kremlin shrugged off a Syrian opposition decision to boycott a peace conference it is organizing in Russia this week, saying on Monday the event would go ahead regardless and make a meaningful contribution to finding a political solution.
Russia is hosting what it has called a Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday that it hopes will launch negotiations on drafting a new constitution for Syria after almost seven years of civil war.
|Turkish forces are seen at Mount Barsaya in northeast of Afrin, Syria January 28, 2018. REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi
But Western powers and some Arab states believe Sochi is an attempt to create a separate peace process that would undermine U.N. efforts to broker a peace deal while laying the groundwork for a solution more suitable to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran.
A spokesman for the Syrian opposition said on Saturday it would not attend the Russian event for those reasons, dismissing the gathering as an attempt by Moscow to sideline the U.N.-backed peace process.
The decision was a setback for Moscow, which is keen to cast itself and President Vladimir Putin as an important Middle East peace broker after its military helped turn the tide of the conflict in Syria in Assad’s favor.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters on Monday that the opposition boycott would not seriously hinder the conference, however.
“The fact that some representatives of the processes currently taking place in Syria are not participating is unlikely to stop this congress from going ahead and is unlikely to seriously undermine the importance of the congress,” he said.