Hundreds of delegates gathered Tuesday afternoon in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi for what Russian Federation, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, had billed as a congress of national dialogue aimed at opening negotiations to draft a new constitution for Syria after nearly seven years of war.
A statement laying down basic principles of the future Syrian state and government was also passed in Sochi, Lavrov said.
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More than 1,000 people were invited to the event, which, unlike a separate and stuttering United Nations-backed process that hosts only the government and opposition, was meant to offer a seat at the table to Kurdish delegates.
Neil Hauer, an independent analyst focused on Russian Federation and Syria who was in Sochi for the congress, told AFP bringing the Kurds to their first major global Syria summit would have been one of Moscow's primary goals. Euronews reporter in Sochi, Galina Polonskaya, summed up what the conference had been about. "We informed them (the Russians) of our conditions that they should remove all the logos and flags representing the Syrian government". When Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a speech to kick off the conference, he was heckled by delegates who accused his government of killing Syrian civilians with airstrikes meant to support the Assad regime.
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The Iranian deputy foreign minister also held separate meetings with the representatives of the Syrian opposition groups participating the Sochi peace talks on Tuesday. Two-thirds will be chosen from supporters of Assad's government and one-third from the opposition.
Meanwhile, representatives of Kurdish groups in Syria boycotted the Russian event because they are now under attack by Turkey. They cited continuing Russian and Syrian military actions against remaining opposition enclaves as evidence Moscow and Damascus are not serious about reaching a political solution to the conflict. Monitoring groups say Syria's war has killed nearly half a million people and wounded hundreds of thousands more.
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