French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly (L) attend a military award ceremony in the courtyard of the Invalides in Paris, France, November 27, 2017 - REUTERS/Charles Platiau French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly (L) attend a military award ceremony in the courtyard of the Invalides in Paris, France, November 27, 2017 - REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France says Sochi meeting on Syria must be under U.N. auspices

Mon, Jan. 29, 2018
PARIS - 29 January 2018: France said on Monday it would not take part in Syrian peace talks to be held in Russia this week but did not rule out attending as an observer, saying the talks must fall within the parameters of a parallel U.N.-led process.

Western powers and some Arab states believe the Sochi talks are an attempt by Russia to create a separate peace process that undermines the U.N. peace effort while laying the groundwork for a solution favourable to President Bashar al-Assad and allies Russia and Iran. Russia has invited the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France and the United States -- to the meeting which the Syrian opposition has said it will boycott.

"All other initiatives, like the Sochi meeting organised by Russia, must support the U.N. process and be in that framework,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a daily briefing.

"We take note of the Syrian opposition's decision not to go to Sochi. France will not participate in the work being carried out there," the spokesman said.

Some 1,600 Syrian politicians, rebels and members of civil society will attend the Sochi negotiations, which follow another round of failed U.N. peace talks.

France has backed the Syrian opposition during the seven-year conflict. French officials say Russia only extended an invitation to attend on the sidelines of the Sochi conference.

France's foreign ministry declined to say whether its diplomats would attend. France's Syria envoy is not due to go, a diplomatic source said.

"We regret that the Assad regime has once again refused to engage in the Geneva process inter-Syrian negotiations," the foreign ministry spokesman said.

"He is responsible for blocking peace negotiations. It is up to the countries that support it to put the necessary pressure to end this obstruction strategy."
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