A man holds up a Syrian flag as attendees wait for the start of a plenary session at the Congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi on January 30, 2018 (Photo: AFP)
A Russian diplomat says the opening of a Russia-sponsored peace conference for Syria is being delayed.
Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi is hosting the conference that Moscow describes as an effort to speed up political settlement for the war-torn country.
Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, says it invited 1,600 representatives to the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue, but so far only the government and opposition representatives tolerated by it have shown up. The main Syrian opposition body has boycotted the talks.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin told Russian news agencies on Tuesday that the conference is being delayed but "will start soon."
He confirmed earlier reports of some members of the rebel groups returning to the airport in protest. Kozhin says the Turkish foreign minister assured the Russian foreign minister on the phone earlier this morning that the "matter will be settled."
The Sochi gathering has been overshadowed by reports of intense clashes that erupted on Monday on a strategic hilltop in northwestern Syria as Kurdish forces tried to enter the area a day after it was captured by Turkish troops.