The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday a list of invitees to the so-called “Syrian National Dialogue Congress” to be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Nov. 18.
The list of 33 groups and political parties from both the Syrian regime and the opposition includes the Free Syrian Army, the High Negotiation Committee and the Syrian National Coalition from the opposition groups, in addition to the Syrian ruling Baath Party and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party.
The list of invitees shows that some changes had been made to the initial proposal of holding the Congress, first suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
The name of the congress was changed from the “Congress of Peoples of Syria” to the “Syrian National Dialogue Congress.” Its location was also moved from the Hmeimim air base in western Syria to the Russian Sochi resort.
An opposition source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the group plans to discuss with the High Negotiation Committee whether to participate in the Sochi congress, adding that Russia was now trying to circumvent the Geneva meetings and the political transition by directly discussing a new Constitution for Syria.
For his part, Ambassador Bashar Jaafari who represents the Syrian regime, said his country was ready to participate in Russia’s Congress. But, Jaafari condemned the Turkish military intervention in Syria.
“Since the 6th Astana meeting, Turkish forces have infiltrated with their armored vehicles, in cooperation and coordination with al-Nusra Front, into Syrian territory in contrary to its obligations under the agreement of de-escalation zones among the guarantor states,” Jaafari said.
He confirmed that Syria was first suggested as the location of the conference, saying the Congress will instead be held in Russia.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended holding the Congress, and said it “aims to expand the scope of participants in the Syrian peace process by inviting the representatives of various tribal, ethnic and religious groups to join it.”
Lavrov was also cautious to explain that Russia does not consider the Congress as a rival to UN Resolutions, or to their path. “The Congress aims to fully implement all the UN decisions,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition failed on Tuesday to reach any solution in the Astana meetings concerning the file of hostages and captives in Syrian prisons.
On the battlefield, regime forces shelled Damascus’ eastern Ghouta, leaving several casualties.