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Geneva process is the only appropriate format to discuss Syria peace: France

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Thursday that Russian steps to push Syrian peace talks should be within the framework of United Nations efforts, which Paris said were the only appropriate forum to discuss a political solution to the civil war.

Having intervened decisively in the Syrian war in 2015 in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia now hopes to build on the collapse of Islamic State to launch a political process to end the six-year-old conflict.

On Tuesday, it invited 33 Syrian groups and political parties to attend what it called a “Syrian Congress on National Dialogue” which it is organizing in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Nov. 18.

“The Geneva process is the only appropriate and internationally-agreed forum to discuss political aspects of the Syrian crisis, especially for an election process and a new constitution,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters in a daily briefing.

She urged all players, including Russia, to abide by U.N. resolution 2254, which lays the foundations for a future peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“International efforts, including those by Russia, must be within this framework,” she added.

France, a key backer of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), has struggled to set up its own peace initiative that would see the permanent members of the Security Council come to an agreement on how to move stalled peace talks forward.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta