Vienna Hosts New Inter-Syria Talks Under UN Auspices


The Vienna talks come ahead of a "Congress of National Dialogue" peace conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey next Tuesday.

Critics of the Sochi talks, which are backed by Turkey and Iran, accuse Russian Federation of trying to hijack the Syrian peace process from the United Nations and come up with a result that favors the government of Bashar al-Assad. The refusal by the opposition to take part in the peace conference comes amid hopes that a ceasefire could soon be agreed in eastern Ghouta. The main opposition group, the Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC), said it would sit down for separate talks with the envoy.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, speaking to reporters early Saturday, admitted there had been a disheartening lack of progress up until now in finding a solution for the Syrian war.

"We invited Lebanon to the Sochi summit meeting", Russian Ambassador Alexander Zaspkin said in a news conference after the meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut.

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"We used the meeting to answer many questions, especially with regard to Sochi's Congress", al-Jaafari said, adding that "the results of the Congress will be the outcome of the dialogue between the Syrians themselves". The UN says months of heavy fighting in the rebel held enclave near Damascus has led to an acute shortage of food and medicine and the worst malnutrition seen in the Syrian civil war.

"This round of negotiations was an global test for the regime, and the test ended yesterday (Friday)", the opposition Syrian Negotiation Commission's Nasr al-Hariri told reporters in Vienna Saturday.

Syrian government forces are pursuing offensives against two remaining rebel pockets, Idlib in the northwest and eastern Ghouta near Damascus. He says he has taken note of the statement by the Russian Federation that the outcome of the congress would be presented as a contribution to the United Nations -brokered intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.

Few expect a breakthrough at these two-days talks aimed at addressing issues related to a new constitution, but de Mistura, has continued to express optimism.