Syria’s opposition said today that it will boycott a peace congress in Russia next week, according to its official Twitter account. “The HNC announces the boycott of the Sochi conference that Russia had invited it to,” the tweet in Arabic on the High Negotiations Committee (HNC)’s account said after UN- brokered talks in Vienna.

The decision came after the both the opposition and regime held a second day of talks with the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura -- with no sign, as in eight previous rounds of failed UN-backed talks, that the warring two sides met face-to-face.

Russia has in the meantime been sponsoring parallel peace talks alongside Iran and Turkey since early last year, and had invited some 1,600 people to a “peace congress” in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29 and 30 to begin hammering out a constitution for post-war Syria.

Western powers have regarded the talks with suspicion, however, worrying that Moscow is seeking to undermine the UN- backed talks with a view to ultimately carving out a settlement in favour of its ally, Syrian President Bashar al- Assad.

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