On January 27, the Syrian opposition Higher Negotiation Council (SHNC) announced that it will not attend the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Conference, which is set to be held in the Russian city of Sochi on January 29-30.
The SHNC said that 26 out of its 36 members voted against attending the Sochi conference. However, several Syrian oppositions sources reported that several figures of the Syrian opposition might attend the conference if are were invited personally.
هيئة التفاوض لقوى الثورة والمعارضة السورية تعلن عن مقاطعتها مؤتمر سوتشي الذي دعت اليه روسيا في ٢٩ و ٣٠ الشهر الحالي.#سوريا
— هيئة التفاوض السورية (@SyrianHNC) January 26, 2018
Yahya Aridi, spokesman for the SHNC said that Damascus government and Russia didn’t provide the necessary commitments for the Syrian opposition to attend the Sochi conference. Moreover, Aridi criticized the conference and described it as an “attempt to undermine UN efforts to mediate a peace deal” in Syria, according to the Qatari al-Jazeera TV.
Many observers believe that the SHNC refused to attend Sochi conference due to a pressure from the US and its allies, mainly Saudi Arabia, the direct backer of the SNHC. The US, Saudi Arabia and three other countries presented a controversial peace plan to the UN during the last week. The plan was seen as an attempt to keep the focus on the Geneva talks only.
There is no doubt that absence of the SNHC will have a negative impact on the Sochi conference. However, many pro-government activists argue that the Syrian opposition could join the upcoming rounds of the conference.