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UN Envoy: January Syria talks to focus on Constitution

December 6, 2020 at 1:05 pm

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, speaks during a press conference after the UN Security Council meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on 28 February 2019 [Atılgan Özdil/Anadolu Agency]

The UN special envoy for Syria announced Friday that a new round of talks to discuss constitutional principles for a peaceful Syria will begin next month in Geneva, reports Anadolu Agency.

Geir Pedersen told reporters at the UN that there was “some common ground” after five days of talks. “So, when the next meeting will be starting on the 25th of January, the COVID situation allowing, what we will be discussing is then constitutional principles or basic principles of the Constitution,” he said.

“I’m very pleased to be able to inform you that the small body … have now agreed. And I think this is actually the first time we have managed to do that,” Pedersen said.

The round of negotiations to secure peace in Syria began Monday in Geneva, with heavy restrictions placed by the UN on access to delegates because of the pandemic. The small constitutional committee is important, said the UN envoy.

“It can build trust and confidence. And it can start to address some key issues in the conflict. And it can be a door opener, and as I’ve also added, it cannot alone resolve the conflict,” he said.

Faster progress is needed, not only on the ground and also in international cooperation.

Pedersen said it is essential to make progress within the international format.

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“We encourage the new American administration, and Russia in particular, to sit down and to discuss, to see if there are, step by reciprocal step steps that could be taken,”  to build trust, he said.

Pedersen said after 10 years of conflict, it was not surprising that the process is slow-going and difficult.

“The committee’s mandate is to prepare and draft a constitutional reform. And our hope is that, with the next few rounds of discussions, it will be possible to start that drafting process,” he said.

Pedersen indicated it will require a lot of work, will be challenging “and it may not happen as quickly as we could hope.”

Hadi al-Bahra, heading the opposition and Ahmad Kuzbari, representing the regime, also spoke to reporters. “This round was positive for us and we had important interventions,” said Kuzbari who accused al-Bahra of violating the “code of conduct” but he did not elaborate.

Al-Bahra said: “In general, we had a positive climate. As you know, and as was said, the climate is sometimes a bit hot.

“A number of papers were submitted on national principles of the Constitution with regards to equal citizenship, freedoms, separation of powers, as well as the independence of the judiciary.”

He said others were also submitted, such as on refugees and the displaced in Syria. “These are amongst the important elements of concern, now to millions of Syrians,” said the opposition leader.

Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

More than 5 million civilians have since been displaced.

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