News Analysis: Sochi talks score progress, uncertainties remain

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Noting that a Syrian political settlement is "going from theory to practice," UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura pledged that the UN-led Geneva peace talks on Syria would pick up the progress achieved during the Sochi congress and set an efficient schedule for drafting the new constitution under the 2254 resolution of the UN Security Council.

Despite the impressive outcome, the Syrian talks in Sochi were in fact filled with squabbles and disorder.

Given the long-running tussle between the Syrian government and the opposition, the results are widely seen as the first tangible progress toward peace in Syria.

MOSCOW, Jan. 31 (Xinhua)-- The just-concluded Syrian peace talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi agreed on the main principles of a political settlement to the Syria crisis and formed a committee to promote constitutional reform in the war-torn country.

For those who came to the talks, things sometimes went rough as well.The discussion was once so heated that it almost turned into a fight, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant.

"The Syrian people alone shall determine the future of their country by democratic means...in line with Syria's international rights and obligations," the statement said.

Russian analysts also said that the congress successfully "broke the ice" on addressing the Syrian conflict, especially in the way of serving as a supporting political track to the Geneva process, as the Sochi talks involved more political parties and covered a wider range of topics than previous peace talks.

HARD-WON RESULTS

"Having a UN representative here is a clear sign of support and legitimacy (of the Sochi conference)... The Geneva talks will receive a boost after the Sochi conference and will be promoted," said Vitaly Naumkin, head of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

With increasing advantages on the battlefield, the government forces are less likely to compromise with opposition groups.

Experts said the irreconcilable conflict of interests between the Syrian government and the opposition will continue to hamper the peace efforts.

"Its only shot at international legitimacy was the participation of all the armed opposition groups, and that did not happen," said Anton Mardasov, head of the Department of Middle Eastern at the Moscow-based Institute for Innovative Development.

A total of 1,800 Syrian delegates were invited to the conference, and only 1,800 managed to show up, as a few of main Syrian opposition groups, including the Syrian High Negotiation Committee supported by the Saudi Arabia and the U.S.-backed Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party, boycott the conference.

Prospects of the Syrian peace process are further dimmed by intensified geopolitical wrestling between various global and regional powers.

Meanwhile, based on the consensus of all delegates, a 80-member committee comprising both government representatives and opposition figures was created at the congress to promote a constitutional reform.

Following a nine-hour meeting ended late Tuesday, participants of the congress agreed on 12 principles for a political settlement in Syria, concerning sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-intervention, autonomous right, equality, public reform, and combating terrorism, among others, according to a statement released at the conclusion of the meeting.

The chaos in Sochi showcased the tense relations between the Syrian government and the opposition, a stumbling block for the difficult Syria peace process.

Moreover, some observers see the hard-earned results at the Sochi conference as "rather vague," and they argue that the constitutional committee set up in during Sochi talks is not completely reliable due to the boycott by certain opposition groups.

LONG WAY TO GO