Discussions for Syrian constitution begin in Geneva
The regime, opposition, Turkey, Russia and the representatives of 15 Western countries led by the U.N. and the U.S. had bilateral meetings separately.
The first meeting of the constitutional committee will be held on Oct. 31 at the U.N. office. Pedersen and the co-chairs of the regime and opposition delegations will speak at the opening meeting.
The committee is seen as key to paving the way for political reform and free and fair U.N.-supervised elections in the country, where the war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee.
At the Sochi conference in January 2018, the Syrian government and the opposition’s “Syrian negotiation commission” agreed that the government, opposition, and Syrian civil society would each get to pick 50 delegates of the 150-member strong constitutional committee.
The Assad government, Syrian opposition and civil society groups each submitted 50 members to serve after months of diplomatic work of the Astana guarantors and the U.N. envoy. Each delegation includes Kurds and the Kurdish National Council (KNC), but there is no SDF or YPG representation.
Announcing the plan for discussions with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, U.N. envoy Geir Pedersen on Oct. 28 said the fighting in northeast Syria and Idlib province was “just another proof of the importance to get a serious political process underway.”
The three countries would not participate directly in the meeting for Syria’s constitutional committee the following day, according to Pedersen. “Syrians, not outsiders, will draft the future constitution,” he said.
Pedersen has already met envoys from seven countries including the United States. James Jeffrey, U.S. special representative for Syria, told reporters that the panel was an important step forward to resolving the conflict.
The gathering, with support from powers backing both sides, marks the first political agreement between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition, Pedersen said.