France says UN-led Syria peace talks in Vienna signify 'final hope'

The Syrian opposition will not attend a peace conference Russian Federation is hosting in Sochi next week, a spokesman said on Saturday, dismissing the meeting as an attempt by the Syrian government's close ally to "sideline" the current United Nations peace process.

The Vienna talks come ahead of a separate peace conference next Tuesday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

A spokesman for the main opposition said his group will boycott the Sochi conference.

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The United Nations will make a fresh push from Thursday to jump-start Syrian peace talks, as violence continues to rage in a seven-year-old war that has killed more than 340,000 people.

Having regained the upper hand in the nearly seven-year civil war, President Bashar al-Assad appears far from ready to negotiate with foes at all, let alone step down as part of any peaceful solution as rebel groups have demanded.

The Vienna talks were also marked by anger from the regime over a leaked set of political proposals from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Britain and France that would involve strengthening the role of Syria's prime minister - at the expense of Assad's authority.

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When asked about the outcome of the meetings between the opposition and a number of worldwide officials, al-Zu'bi said that all these meetings came to reveal to the parties concerned to resolve the Syrian crisis, was the reality of the Syrian regime and its inflexible stance. And this section as it was described by the United Nations special envoy, Mistura accrued to be a crucial one and we believe that it is. And we didn't see this commitment.

Moscow initially hoped to convene peace talks in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors.

De Mistura says the only sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis is through an inclusive Syria-led political process. Under this mandate, de Mistura notes a new constitution will be drawn up in Geneva under the auspices of the so-called Geneva process.

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  • Ryan Wade