Jan 31,2018 – JORDAN TIMES EDITORIAL
The Russian-brokered Sochi “peace conference” on Syria dubbed as the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue held on Tuesday was off to a disappointing start and ended with modest results if any.
Not only some 70 delegates representing the opposition who had initially accepted the Russian invitation to attend the conference ended up boycotting the one-day session by refusing to leave the Sochi airport but major powers including the US, the UK and France also decided against taking part for fear that the outcome of the meeting would be very much to Moscow’s taste.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura who reluctantly accepted the invitation to attend the gathering ended up withdrawing from it right from the start of the meeting presumably to protect some procedural issues related to the meeting, including his fears obviously supported by the UN secretary general, that the Sochi meetings aim to supplant altogether the UN peace initiative on Syria instead of just supplementing it.
The one day gathering was supposed to bring “peace to the Syrian people”, but ended up adding complications to the already fractious attempts to end the multifaceted war in Syria.
The Russian motivation behind the meeting was made all the more clear when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking on behalf of Russian President Vladamir Putin, said at the opening session of the meeting that “today all conditions are in place to turn this tragic page in Syria’s history”.
President Putin was alluding to the tide of the war changing in favour of Damascus after the Russian massive military intervention in the fighting in the country more than two years ago.
Coupled with the earlier reports that Moscow had threatened to apply military pressure against opposition groups refusing to attend the Sochi meeting, the heavy-handed presence of Moscow in the Sochi platform on Syria is all the more clearer.
The modest final communique of the conference said it all. It was short and too broad sufficing to say that Syria must remain united and non-sectarian and that the Syrian people shall determine its future but stopped short of saying how these noble goals can be achieved.