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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 May 2018

Sochi talks to form 'unified Syrian army and government'

Vladimir Putin is set to host a two-day conference on Syrian dialogue

Syrians walk by posters of president Bashar Al Assad and president Vladimir Putin in Aleppo. Hassan Ammar / AP
Syrians walk by posters of president Bashar Al Assad and president Vladimir Putin in Aleppo. Hassan Ammar / AP

Russian brokered talks on Syria will demand the formation of a unified army and national unity, a leaked Russian document obtained by Asharq Al Awsat newspaper said.

President Vladimir Putin is set to host a two-day conference on a Syrian dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, which is seen as a broader push by Moscow to start hammering out a political path to end the Syrian war.

The draft document stipulates that Moscow will call on the Syrian regime to push for “national unity and to provide a fair representation of its administration”.

Negotiations will focus on drafting a new constitution for post-war Syria with support from regime backer Iran and rebel backer Turkey.

Russia’s push for a political process is a mere echo of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s demands.

Sochi’s conference is expected to form a Syrian National Dialogue that will host over 1,700 Syrian groups who will “represent the political, ethnic, religious and social elements of Syria’s community,” the document said.

The Damascus regime has said it would attend the negotiations.

Western countries view the Sochi peace talks with scepticism, concerned that Russia and Iran will carve out a settlement that will favour their own ally Mr Al Assad. They maintain that Mr Putin regards the talks as an alternative to the UN-led peace talks and as a demonstration of his ability to wield influence in the region.

According to the draft document, the establishment of three committees is expected during the conference - the presidential committee, a constitutional reforms committee and an election and registration committee.

Moscow stressed the need for the draft to be based on the 12 principles presented by UN’s envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura in Geneva last November.

According to the document, the only way to achieve a political settlement in Syria is to adhere to the 12 points which are based on "respect, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria."

Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition group said on Monday it needed “clear information” from Russia before it could agree to take part in the Sochi peace talks.

The comments came as the group held talks with Russia's foreign minister, Sergie Lavrov, in Moscow on Monday.

Mr Lavrov told Naser Al Hariri, Syria's opposition leader, that Russia wants the Congress of National Dialogue "to be as inclusive as possible."

For its part, the Syrian opposition has not taken a "final decision" on whether to boycott the Sochi talks.

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