Syria hails committee for constitution talk
BEIRUT - Reuters
The Syrian government welcomes the formation of a committee that will discuss the current constitution and is expected to be formed at a congress to be convened by Russia in Sochi, Syrian state media said.
The congress marks a Russian effort to advance a political solution towards ending Syria’s six-year-long war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee in the worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
U.N.-backed talks towards ending the conflict are due to resume in Geneva this week with the participation of the Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
A pro-Damascus newspaper, al-Watan, reported yesterday that the government delegation had postponed its travel to Geneva, saying Damascus was annoyed by the opposition’s insistence on its demand that Assad leave power at the start of a transition.
But, a diplomat said yesterday that Syria’s peace talks in Geneva will begin as scheduled even though the government delegation might not arrive on time.
The opposition had announced last week it was prepared to enter into direct talks with the government without preconditions, although some opposition figures have demanded Assad relinquish power once the country enters a transitional period.
In Geneva, a diplomatic official close to the negotiations said that despite indications the government delegation had delayed its arrival, there was nothing to suggest the talks would not start today as scheduled. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The U.N.’s deputy envoy to Syria, Ramzy Ramzy, said after meeting Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Nov. 25 in Damascus that the talks would cover four main topics, a new constitution, governance, elections and combating terrorism.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry announced on Nov. 26 that the government would attend Russian-sponsored talks in Sochi, slated for next month.