The Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in Sochi on January 29-30, showed that the Syrian society is ready for reconciliation, says Valdai Club expert Academician Vitaly Naumkin, research director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to him, the Congress, which has been recognized by the UN, reinforces the negotiation process in Geneva and gives it a new impetus.
For the first time the idea to hold the National Dialogue Congress of the Syrian people, where all ethnic and religious groups of the country, representatives of the government and the opposition would take part, was voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in October 2017. According to Vitaly Naumkin, this event, unprecedented in its scope, summed up the results of the successful military campaign that culminated by the defeat of terrorists in Syria and marked the launch of a national dialogue.
"There is a hope that this national dialogue will continue in Syria itself and those people, who came to Sochi and for the first time sat next to each other in the same hall, will continue to maintain contacts," he said in a telephone interview with www.valdaiclub.com on January 30. – “They demonstrated, and this is, perhaps, the main result, that the Syrian society is ready for reconciliation. And Russia did it! Properly Russia was able to gather in one hall people who are in an acute conflict among themselves ".
At the same time Naumkin stressed the importance of coordinated efforts of the three guarantor states of the Astana peace process. "It is very important that the triumvirate of Russia, Turkey and Iran, the guarantor countries, succeeded and ensured the successful holding of the Congress," he said.
According to Naumkin, the discussion was stormy, tense, but nevertheless there were no serious clashes, which allowed to achieve the set of goals and objectives. "There was a lot of controversy - especially on the decisions that Congress ultimately took after all," the expert said. - This is primarily the Final Document and the Address of the Congress to the world community. It is shorter than the Final Document and concerns the problems of Syria's reconstruction, the provision of humanitarian aid to Syria and so on. But the most important thing is, of course, the confirmation of all the obligations undertaken by the organizers to hold this fateful, unusual phenomenon in the history of Russia, in the history of our peacekeeping, our diplomatic and military activities."
One of the main results of the Congress, according to Vitaly Naumkin, is the creation of the Constitutional Committee. "The work on the next steps to launch the process of constitutional reform, as well as work on the final formation of the Constitutional Committee will continue through the United Nations," he stressed.
Of particular importance is the fact that the Congress gained legitimacy by the international community through the participation of Staffan De Mistura, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General. In his address to the Congress De Mistura thanked the Russian Federation for the invitation and noted the importance of the elections of the Constitutional Committee. He promised to inform about the next steps to be taken by the United Nations and its general secretary, Naumkin said. "Most importantly, the National Dialogue Congress in Sochi reinforces the negotiation process in Geneva, gives it a new impetus," the expert said. "There is a hope that, as the UN special envoy said, this process will be successful and that the Syrian society will move along the path of national reconciliation."
According to Naumkin, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress caused great resonance in the world. This is evidenced by the wide presence of the media and representatives of interested states. "Judging by what we hear right now, everyone marks the significance of the Congress and the fact that it really took place. Of course, there are ill-wishers who question the achieved progress, but their voice is not dominant. Today, no one can deny that the Congress will contribute to the settlement of the Syrian crisis," the expert concluded.