Results of Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi

Results of Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi

The Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held in Russia’s Sochi yesterday.

The congress concluded after nine hours of negotiations possible amendments to the constitution and post-war reconstruction. The main result of the congress was the decision to establish a constitutional committee.

According to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a decision was made during the congress to form a constitutional committee, comprising delegates elected during the congress, and also to include representatives of groups who were absent for various reasons.

The minister added that the establishment of the constitutional commission will be forwarded to the UN, in line with resolution 2254, the work of this new structure will be organized in Geneva.

A statement laying down basic principles of the future Syrian state and government was also passed in Sochi: respecting sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Syria; protecting the rights of all ethnic and religious groups; and ensuring that the political process does not leave anyone out and allows Syrians to determine their future on their own, without any interference from abroad.

According to organizers, the Syrian congress has brought together 1,392 delegates representing all strata of Syrian society. 

The Russian president’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said that a total of 11 members of the Syrian opposition’s Riyadh group took part in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on special invitations. He said that organizers of the Sochi congress had no plans of excluding anyone from the dialogue.

Lavrentyev noted that the Constitution Commission will comprise 150 members and the full list will be forwarded to the UN following the settling of some minor issues.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said the constitutional committee agreed in Sochi "will become a reality in Geneva". De Mistura also said he would decide the criteria for committee members and select about 50 people - from government, opposition and independent groups.

"A Constitutional Committee should at the very least comprise the government, opposition representatives in the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women. You have also concluded that care would be taken to ensure adequate representation of Syria’s ethnical and religious leaders - and we have seen many here today,” de Mistura said after the congress, according to a statement," he said.

Representatives from various countries and international organizations were also invited as observers of the congress. Russia, Iran and Turkey, guarantors of a Syrian cease-fire regime, were organizers of the congress.

A senior research fellow of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Sazhin, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi was an important forum giving an opportunity to the people which haven't met before to hold consultations. "Unlike Geneva, where serious work is underway, but which is attended by a small number of participants, Sochi provides an opportunity to hold a multifaceted and large-scale dialogue. It is a positive thing, because the parties can get to know each other better," the expert noted.

At the same time, he complained that many people opposed to the Bashar Assad regime did not arrive in Sochi.

In addition, Sazhin expressed doubts that the Sochi forum could solve very complex problems. "In order to make some positive decision on resolving very important issues such as the constitution, it should be attended by all the players of this terrible war in Syria. If a radical minority of the opposition - not terrorists - does not agree with many Sochi or Geneva conclusions, it may continue to pursue its policy and, perhaps, by military means. Therefore, the unity of all them is necessary to solve Syria's main problem. It is extremely difficult to achieve, and so far it is impossible. Therefore, the Sochi event is positive, but at the same time it does not solve all the Syrian problems," the expert said.

The head of the political research of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, Yuri Mavashev, said that holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi was the most successful international initiative on the Syrian issue. "We managed to achieve our goals: try to glue together the Syrian society in a political sense, unite different ethno-confessional groups and try to correlate their interests with the future of Syria. I believe that Russia-Turkey-Iran work in Sochi can be considered successful out of all the initiatives previously undertaken by the international community. During the congress, statements were regularly made for a united Syria and for the peace, there were no anti-Assad or anti-government statements. Nothing like that happened in Geneva," he said.

"It is clear that all the problems cannot be solved immediately, but the work itself has begun. It is important that not only Russia is the guarantor of peace in Syria, but also regional centers of power, since the chances for a full completion of the Syrian crisis are increasing. But a lot of things depend on whether the Syrian society will find a compromise in itself - and we for our part have done everything possible so that they could do it," Yuri Mavashev pointed out.