The Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue held at the end of January in Sochi visibly surpassed by its scale the attempts made earlier to bring together representatives of all groups of the population of the split war of Syria under one roof. 1600 people, differing political and religious views, social status, age, tried hard to find ways to establish peace on their land. Without substituting the existing mechanisms of the UN, this congress was aimed at facilitating their work. Nevertheless, in the West, the predominant evaluation of the results of the Sochi forum was the definition of it as almost failed – on the basis that some pro-Western groups had declined to participate in it. The United States, Britain and France ignored the meeting. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in Paris that the decision on Syria can be taken only within the framework of the UN in Geneva, and not in Sochi.
Meanwhile, the “Sochi platform” for today is the only ideology that can really unite the disparate Syrian society. There are no attempts to fix the advantages of one of the parties to the conflict. It clearly reflects those democratic norms that are inscribed on the banners of the West. These norms may not be to the liking of only radical Islamic radicals. It would seem that the US and its allies can only welcome the progress achieved. Nothing like this, unfortunately, is observed, as if everything coming from Russia is “toxic” by definition.
The final statement of the congress in Sochi, despite the disagreements of the participants, was approved by them without any special objections for the reason that it reflects the fundamental interests of the Syrian state. In 12 points of the statement, emphasis is placed on “full adherence” to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of Syria. It is especially emphasized that no part of the national territory should be subject to concessions, and the occupied Golan Heights should be returned. None of the Syrian activists can formally object to this, unless he is a political suicide. At the same time, these principles can hardly be liked by the United States, mired in the adventure of creating a Kurdish quasi-state on the Syrian territory, as well as Israel. The Syrian oppositionists who arrived in Sochi did not show that they are on the sidelines of those who are not very concerned about the key rights of the people of Syria. And this will result in a further decline in their influence among the population.
Does it meet the needs of all Syrians and internationally recognized norms about the nature of the future state? According to this point, Syria “must be a democratic and non-fractional state based on the principles of political pluralism and equal citizenship, regardless of religious, ethnic and gender identity, full respect for and protection of the rule of law, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, full equality of all citizens, the cultural diversity of Syrian society, the provision of public freedoms, including freedom of religion, with transparent, inclusive, responsible government, including in front of national legislation, with the necessary effective measures to combat crime, corruption and official abuse. ” In which states of the US allies in the Middle East such a program is implemented? Not in any! It is unprecedented, in particular, for local traditional societies, the statement that in the future structures of power in Syria, women receive a share of 30%, and in the future would achieve full parity.
The provision that the future national army of Syria must be “strong and united” definitely indicates that it will be able to include armed units of that part of the opposition that will join the process of national reconciliation. The country needs it, but the United States and Turkey in Syria create “pocket armies”. The position of Ankara in relation to the Sochi Congress as a whole is ambivalent. On the one hand, Turkey participated in the congress, and its deputy foreign minister even represented the “Istanbul group of the Syrian opposition”. Arriving in Afrin, the Turks can not but cooperate with Moscow, and behind the scenes with the central government in Syria. On the other hand, the successes of Damascus is not particularly encouraging. One Turkish diplomat even “anonymously” confessed: “If we were not present at the meeting, the Constitutional Commission would be formed in addition to the will of Turkey.”
The most important decision of the forum is precisely the decision to form the Constitutional Commission, which will include representatives of the government and opposition participating in the inter-Syrian negotiations, experts on Syria, representatives of civil society, independent representatives, tribal leaders, women. The composition of this body should be proportionally represented by all ethnic and religious groups. It was announced that the final decision on the mandate, procedure, powers, rules of procedure and criteria for the selection of the members of the Constitutional Commission will be adopted in the framework of the Geneva process under the auspices of the United Nations. According to Turkish media, Russia, Turkey and Iran were supposed to offer 50 people (150 in all), of which about 40 will be selected by the UN Special Representative for Syria Staffan de Mistura, on the basis of a third of the government, a third of the opposition, a third – independent candidates. Ankara has already asked de Mistura not to allow any representative of the Kurdish Party of the Democratic Union (PDS) to the Constitutional Commission.
For the time being, the question remains, which is a stumbling block in relations between the authorities and the opposition, about future elections and the fate of the ruling regime. And this, probably, for the better. It’s pointless to stumble over this topic endlessly, if there is no constitution and laws regulating the electoral process.
One of the serious political forces against the proposal for the preparation of a new constitution was the Syrian negotiating committee, which is oriented toward Riyadh, which continues to insist on the departure of B. Assad and the formation of a transitional government. The Syrian national coalition based in Turkey was not so categorical, but did not express enthusiasm for the proposed start of the constitutional process. However, Ankara still intends to push its members into the composition of the Constitutional Commission. The statement of the Turkish Foreign Ministry emphasizes that the Syrian National Coalition took a “constructive part” in the Sochi forum and presented “after consultation with the opposition” its list of 50 members of the future commission. This could mean further marginalization of the “Er-riyad group” on the Syrian political scene, which increases the chances of achieving a peaceful settlement.
Because of the Turkish offensive in Afrin the leaders of the PYD did not present in Sochi although this it rather played for the benefits of Ankara. Among the opposition, especially targeting Turkey, there were many figures who generally would like to leave the Kurds outside the constitutional process. Representatives of other, less influential Kurdish organizations in Sochi still arrived. In the long term, this threatens the YPD with a gradual loss of influence among the Kurds.
In general, the Sochi forum was the success of the Syrian public forces, which are determined to achieve peace with the consolidation around Damascus as soon as possible. The opposition after the tangible military defeats is going through a crisis, which is manifested in the growing division in its ranks.