SOCHI, Russia – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has issued a message insisting that the right conditions were in place for Syria to move on from its tragic conflict, as delegates gathered Tuesday for the second day of a Syrian peace conference in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi that opposition groups boycotted.
The Russian-backed Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue aimed to hammer out a commission for the creation of a new constitution and a political transition in war-torn Syria, although the main opposition delegation, the Higher Negotiation Committee, refused to attend the event amid concerns that any agreement would only benefit the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Putin.
“It can be considered that today the right conditions have been created to turn this tragic page of Syria’s history,” said Putin in a message read out by his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. “This is a good opportunity to achieve the desires of the Syrian people to end this war between brothers, to definitively put an end to terrorism and return to a normal life,” the statement added.
In the message, Putin added that only the Syrian people had the right to decide on the future of their country.
Members of the HNC, however, refused to leave the airport at Sochi, apparently protesting the presence of Syrian regime flags in the arrivals hall.
A board of Kurdish negotiators invited by Moscow was also due to boycott the convention amid accusations that Russia gave Turkey the green light to launch its recent military incursion against Kurdish YPG militias in Afrin province, located in far northwestern Syria.
Top international dignitaries, such as the United Nation’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and the UN’s secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, have supported the initiative as a way to revive stuttering UN-backed talks in Geneva.
Any transitional constitution in Syria would be drawn up under the auspices of the UN, Putin’s message added.