TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Speaking at a press conference at the UN headquarters New York on Friday, Guterres said the presence of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura “in Sochi was based on a common understanding between the United Nations and the Russian Federation on the nature and outcome of the meeting and its contribution to the [UN-mediated] Geneva process.”
“The congress concluded with a statement fully in line with that common understanding,” he added.
Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been organizing peace talks for Syria in the Kazakh capital of Astana since January 2017. Together, the three countries have been acting as guarantor states for the peace process.
Capitalizing on the achievements of Astana, Russia on January 29-30 convened a high-profile meeting on Syria — the Syrian Congress of National Dialog — in Sochi.
One Syrian opposition faction boycotted that meeting, and some non-political groups opposed to Damascus later accused the UN of “rewarding” Russia “upfront” by dispatching Special Envoy de Mistura to the event before securing concessions from Russia and the Syrian government.
Russia and Iran are Syrian government allies. Turkey is an ally of the Syrian opposition.
The collective efforts of the three countries, including the brokering of agreements that have significantly reduced fighting in Syria, have made an impact on the ground in the Arab country.
In contrast, a peace process held under the auspices of the UN — that in Geneva — has achieved little. That has angered some Western and Arab governments opposed to the Syrian government and some groups of Syrian opposition backed by those governments. They insist that the Geneva process be given more importance despite its failure so far to make meaningful achievements.
Guterres appreciated Russia’s engagement with the UN regarding the Syria talks.
He highlighted the key subjects of the 12-point final Sochi statement, saying that the document embraced a vision of Syria for all its citizens and underlined the need for the formation of a Constitutional Committee under UN auspices.
Around 1,600 delegates representing a wide range of Syrian political factions attended the Sochi talks. The event was boycotted by the High Negotiations Committee, which is based in and guided by Saudi Arabia.
Damascus welcomed the results of the event and stressed that its final statement affirmed that political progress in Syria cannot begin except under the Syrian leadership and without any foreign interference.
The Sochi conference took place just days after the ninth round of UN-led Syria talks failed to achieve tangible results. That round was exceptionally held in the Austrian capital, Vienna, instead of its usual venue of Geneva.