Opposition rejects Russian initiative to hold congress on Syria crisis

Press TV- The Syrian opposition has rejected an initiative put forward by Russia during the latest negotiations in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to hold a congress, which would bring together Syria’s warring sides in Sochi later this month.

Members of Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee and the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) told Reuters on Wednesday that they do not approve of the plan, saying they would issue a joint statement later to express their opposition to the plan.

SNC spokesman Ahmad Ramadan said the plan seeks to circumvent the UN efforts to mediate Syrian peace talks in Geneva, adding, “The Coalition will not participate in any negotiations with the regime outside Geneva or without UN sponsorship.”

The Astana peace process has been underway since January with the mediation of Iran and Russia, the Syrian government’s allies, and Turkey, which supports armed opposition groups.

The latest round of the talks came to an end on Tuesday, with the three guarantor states agreeing on the Russia-proposed congress.

A joint statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website at the end of the Astana talks listed 33 Syrian organizations invited to a “Congress of Syrian National Dialogue,” which is to be held in the Russian city of Sochi on November 18.

Russia says the key task of the event is to pave the way for constitutional reforms.

Turkey against Kurdish presence

Despite Turkey’s approval of the Syrian congress plan, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that the country opposes the invitation of the representatives of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to the talks.

Ibrahim Kalin’s remarks came a day after a senior Kurdish official said that Russia had invited the Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria to a proposed congress of Syria’s rival parties in November.

Kalin noted that Turkish and Russian officials had discussed the issue, and that he had held meetings of his own to “solve the problem on the spot.”

More checkpoints for Idlib

The latest round of Astana talks focused on humanitarian issues in Syria as well as the situation in Idlib Province.

Elaborating on the agreements in the seventh round, Iran’s top negotiator at Astana talks Hossein Jaberi Ansari said on Tuesday that each of the three guarantor states had agreed to set up 12 checkpoints in Idlib, where a de-escalation zone has been formed.

Jaberi Ansari noted that the three guarantor states agreed on continuation of the fight against Daesh and al-Nusra Takfiri terrorists and their affiliates, settlement of the Syrian conflict through political channels and delivery of humanitarian aid to all the areas across Syria.