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Dec 18, 11:06 AM EST

Assad says years of UN-backed Syria talks yielded 'nothing'


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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that three years of U.N.-brokered peace talks have yielded "nothing," in part because the opposition does not represent anyone and is merely a "vocal phenomenon."

Assad spoke to reporters after the latest round of talks in Geneva ended last week without making any progress toward ending the nearly seven-year civil war. The U.N. envoy to Syria has criticized the government, which refuses to discuss anything besides fighting terrorism.

The opposition has long called for a transitional period in which Assad would have no role, something the government refuses to even consider.

Assad praised an alternative track of negotiations expected to be hosted in Sochi by Russia, a close ally whose military intervention since 2015 has tipped the war in his favor.

"We certainly believe that anything is better than Geneva, because Geneva has achieved nothing after three years," Assad said.

Assad said the talks at Sochi would examine whether Syria needs a new constitution or to amend its current one. He said legislative elections would also likely be discussed.

The main opposition group in Geneva has criticized the Sochi initiative, calling it an attempt to create an alternative track to the internationally supported peace talks.

Assad has portrayed the opposition delegation in Geneva as a proxy of hostile foreign powers.

Assad spoke after meeting a Russian government delegation. He said the visit was a chance to promote economic cooperation, "particularly now that we started the reconstruction phase." He did not specify any particular projects.

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