UN's special envoy for Syria to attend Sochi talks

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The opposition Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will not attend the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that is scheduled to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi next week, a spokesman said on Saturday.

Russian Federation has in the meantime been sponsoring parallel peace talks alongside Iran and Turkey since early a year ago, and had invited some 1,600 people to a peace congres in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29 and 30 to begin hammering out a constitution for post-war Syria.

Ahead of an SNC press conference on Saturday morning there was little detail about why the opposition had ultimately made a decision to boycott Sochi, though spokesman Yahya al-Aridi earlier described the talks in Vienna as "tough".

The 9th round of UN-mediated talks between Syria's warring factions came to an end in Austria's capital Vienna on Friday with no tangible progress.

Having regained the upper hand in the nearly seven-year-old civil war, President Bashar al-Assad appears far from ready to negotiate with his enemies at all, let alone step down as part of any peaceful solution as rebel groups have demanded. On Sunday the Syrian army said it had captured the vital Abu Duhur military airport.

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"We used the meeting to answer many questions, especially with regard to Sochi's Congress", al-Jaafari said, adding that "the results of the Congress will be the outcome of the dialogue between the Syrians themselves".

De Mistura has presided over a sporadic series of talks in Geneva, with a mandate to discuss new elections, reformed governance, a new constitution and the fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile Russian-backed Syrian troops have been carrying out an offensive since late 2017 in the northwest region of Idlib, the last province still fully outside government control. Nasr al-Hariri from the SNC said the discussions would be "a real test for all the sides".

Ahmad Ramadan said the agreement was signed Friday, on the second and last day of a United Nations -mediated round of peace talks in Vienna.

De Mistura says the only sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis is through an inclusive Syria-led political process.

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