Russia Denies Postponing Syria Peace Conference
Russia on Tuesday denied postponing a Syria peace conference while also not confirming the earlier announced date of November 18, after the plan gained a cool reception from rebel backer Turkey and its Western allies.
"This congress is being prepared now," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday. "No one has postponed it because the date of the congress has not been officially announced," he added.
Russia pledged during talks in Kazakhstan last week to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents together for a "congress" to push peace efforts in the city of Sochi on November 18.
Then on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, said the Kremlin had told Ankara it was postponing the event.
Lavrov in Russia's first public reaction since that announcement, said Moscow was in touch with Turkey, Iran, the Gulf nations and other countries to determine the conference's agenda and date.
He said Moscow was also in contact with the Syrian government and a range of opposition forces as well as the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Russia last week unveiled its plan and a list of 33 Syrian organizations to bring all actors to the negotiating table in Sochi after peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana failed.
Russia’s Sputnik press suggests that Syrian actors may want the date to be delayed to later in December – possibly to iron out the invitation list.
Lavrov said some opposition groups had refused to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. Global players have not come to agreement on the fate of Assad and this has caused a barrier to hosting meetings, inviting major players, and setting long-term plans.
Lavrov said Tuesday that global players should redouble efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the six-year war as the Syrian regime edges closer to victory after a string of Islamic State group losses.
The Astana talks have run in parallel to negotiations held in Geneva with the backing of the United Nations. It is no yet clear how the two process complement each other.
"As far as the Syrian conflict is concerned, the political process is becoming ever more important," he said.