MOSCOW (AP) - A Russia-hosted Syrian peace conference ended Tuesday with a plan to draft a new constitution as part of efforts to end the nearly seven-year civil war, but key opposition and rebel groups boycotted the gathering and it remained unclear if they would join the process.
The conference, held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was also overshadowed by renewed fighting in northern Syria.
Opposition activists reported more airstrikes on the rebel-held Idlib province, where dozens have been killed in government air raids this week, and Turkish troops continued their offensive on the Afrin enclave, held by a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia which also boycotted the Russian-sponsored talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov nevertheless hailed the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue as an important step toward peace in Syria and sought to play down the opposition boycott.
“No one expected that it would be possible to bring together representatives of all groups of Syrians without exclusion,” he told reporters after the talks. “There is no big tragedy that two or three groups weren’t able to attend.”
Lavrov said the conference participants agreed to form a constitutional committee that will be based in Geneva. He said the delegates named some of its members, adding that groups which didn’t attend the Sochi talks will also be invited to name their representatives to the committee.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who has been leading Syria peace talks in Geneva, attended the Sochi conference. He said the new committee, including representatives of both the Syrian government and the opposition, should be created as quickly as possible.