The bulk of the delegates to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress scheduled for January 30 will arrive in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday.
The meeting in Russia will be a continuation of Moscow’s efforts aimed at restoring civilian life in Syria and will bring together over 1,500 people.
According to the forum’s organizers, the first delegates from among internal opposition members from Damascus have already arrived in Sochi.
The participants are expected to give a fresh impetus to dialogue between different parts of Syrian society to determine Syria’s post-conflict settlement, create conditions for restoring the country’s unity and political settlement of the crisis by the Syrians themselves, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
The resolution envisages ensuring a broad spectrum of participants in the political settlement process. This is precisely what the congress in Sochi is aimed at by inviting a wide range of Syrian political, civil, ethnic and religious groups, representatives of political parties, social movements and tribal associations of the country.
Inviting Syrians to dialogue
According to the organizers of the congress, about 1,600 delegates representing all strata of Syrian society have been invited to take part in the event. Most delegates – over 1,300 – are from Syria. Among them are opposition members from the People’s Council of Syria, representatives of major political parties (the Ba’ath Party, the National Progressive Front, the Communist Party), prominent religious figures from all confessions, representatives of tribes, trade unions, and ethnic minorities.
A special group of participants from Syria is represented by members of the armed groups, which have joined the reconciliation process. There are about 230 units that have laid down their arms.
The external opposition will be presented at the congress as well, more than 300 participants are expected to take part in the Sochi event. Among them are delegates from the Moscow Platform Qadri Jamil, Randa Kassis from the Astana platform, members of Syria’s Tomorrow movement led by Ahmad Jarba and Haytham Manna from the Syrian National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change.
A delegation of the Syrian Foreign Ministry led by the minister’s adviser Farouk Arnous has been invited to take part in the congress too.
All major regional and international external players have been invited to take part in the congress as observers. This will make it possible to ensure maximum transparency of the forum. These are the permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Syria’s neighbors and influential Arab countries – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Kazakhstan, which regularly hosts international meetings on Syria in the Astana format, has confirmed its participation in the event.
The UN will be represented at the congress by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura who earlier expressed the hope that the congress in Sochi will help revitalize the Geneva process and regular talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. The United States as a permanent member of the UN Security Council has been invited to Sochi as an observer. Washington has not responded to the invitation to date, but the US Embassy confirmed that it had been received.
Russia’s delegation at the congress will be led by Special Presidential Envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to arrive in Sochi as well. Head of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev plans to take part in the forum too.
High-level delegations will be sent by the countries acting as Syrian ceasefire guarantors together with Russia – Iran and Turkey.
However, despite the presence of the leading world powers and the key regional powers, the core work at the congress should be done by the Syrians themselves, because only they, according to Resolution 2254, can determine their country’s future.