Need for More Inclusive Syrian Dialogue

Need for More Inclusive Syrian DialogueNeed for More Inclusive Syrian Dialogue

Tehran's former ambassador to Syria said Iran, Russia, and Turkey need to double down on their efforts to make the meetings of the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Russian resort city of Sochi more inclusive.

Hossein Sheikholeslam, now an advisor at the Foreign Ministry, told ISNA in an interview on Monday that "at present, there is no alternative to the Sochi congress and Astana talks for resolving the Syrian crisis."

"The [parallel UN-sponsored] Geneva peace talks have not been able to achieve anything tangible mainly due to the insistence of Riyadh-backed opposition that the Syrian government must go," he said.

The Russian-proposed Sochi congress was convened on January 31 after Iran, Russia, and Turkey held several rounds of talks on Syrian peace, known as Astana talks, which led to a considerable reduction of fighting on the ground through establishing de-escalation zones in across the war-torn Arab country.    

According to the organizers, the Sochi talks brought together 1,511 delegates representing all strata of Syrian society. Most of the participants (94.5%) were Arabs but there were also Kurds, Yazidis, Druze and other Syrian ethnic groups at the negotiations.

  Viable Solution

However, critics of the talks have pointed to the absence of some of the armed Syrian opposition and Kurdish groups who stayed out of the congress due to the recent Turkish military operation against US-backed Kurdish militia inside Syria.

Sheikholeslam said "although there were some problems, the final statement of the congress which called for a constitutional reform is a logical solution that needs to be followed up step by step."

The 12-point statement stipulates Syria should maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity, stressing that the Syrian people hold the right to determine the country's future through elections.

The former ambassador said Iran has always insisted on the "Syrian people's will" to the shape the political future of their country.

"We believe other countries do not have the right to make decisions for the Syrian people," he said.

He also downplayed Washington and Riyadh's objections regarding the Sochi process, adding that the two allies' efforts to derail the talks would lead nowhere as they do not play a significant and constructive role in the Middle Eastern country.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed the congress had failed to produce any significant results.

"You see, coming out of Sochi, which did not work out, I think is the most polite way to describe the outcome. They're on their way to Geneva and the United Nations," he told reporters on Friday.


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