Russia hopes Geneva talks will 'reinvigorate' Syria peace efforts

Russia hopes Geneva talks will 'reinvigorate' Syria peace efforts
Russia's UN ambassador said he hoped the UN-led talks on Syria would 'reinvigorate' the peace process, ahead of Sochi.
3 min read
10 January, 2018
Moscow has spearheaded the talks in Astana over the last year [Getty]

There are hopes for new UN-led talks on Syria in Geneva to "reinvigorate" peace efforts, said Russia's UN ambassador, ahead of the Russian-brokered talks this month.

Vassily Nebenzia said on Tuesday that Moscow hopes the talks set to take place in the Black Sea resort of Sochi which would bring together regime officials and the opposition, will contribute to the UN-led peace effort in Geneva, which has so far failed.

Nebenzia added that a new round of Geneva talks "will be more fruitful, and that it will contribute to Sochi, and then Sochi in reciprocity will contribute to future Genevas."

The UN Security Council held a closed-door humanitarian briefing on Raqqa at Russia's behest on Tuesday. Raqqa was retaken from the extremist Islamic State group in October.

Nebenzia said the city is devastated and those who fought the IS militants should take responsibility for restoring it.

Moscow has spearheaded the talks in Astana over the last year as it tries to turn its game-changing military intervention into a negotiated settlement.

Russian president Vladimir Putin hosted Turkish and Iranian talks in November - the first such three-way summit between the trio.

The cooperation comes despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia and Iran.

Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow's military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. 

Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad's ouster in a conflict that has left more than 330,000 dead.

But Russia and Turkey have been working together since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN Syria envoy, said that Russia's plan to convene the congress is dependent on its ability to support the UN-led Geneva talks taking place.

He also needs Russia's support to keep Assad's regime involved in UN talks, which failed to make progress in December with De Mistura laying blame on Damascus for the "golden opportunity missed".

Since the start of Syria's war in 2011, numerous diplomatic attempts to halt the conflict have stumbled, mainly over the future of Assad.

Late last month, a statement released by nearly 40 rebel groups, including some of the military factions that took part in the earlier rounds of the peace talks, said there was no real pressure being placed on the Syrian government by Moscow to reach a political settlement.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.