Syrian charter panel to convene late October
The first meeting of Syria’s constitutional committee will take place late October in Geneva with the participation of the three members of the Astana Process, as well as world powers, the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria has announced, expressing his hopes that the meeting will pave way for a much-anticipated peaceful resolution to the eight-year civil war in the Middle Eastern country.
Geir Pedersen, the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, recalled that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Sept. 23 an agreement on the composition of the 150-man constitutional committee after his talks with all relevant parties during the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He also informed that the meeting will occur in Geneva on either Oct. 29 or 30. The details on the meeting will be announced after a U.N. Security Council meeting slated for late Sept. 30 in New York.
In separate interviews with different Russian media outlets over the weekend, Pedersen stressed the importance of the convention of the constitutional committee and provided some information on the modalities of the functions of the committee.
He told TASS news agency that “Russia, Turkey and Iran, which are guarantors of the Astana process, along with the Small Group [comprising the U.K., Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United States and France] and China have been invited to attend the first meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.”
“It’s not a secret that I have wanted to make sure that the Astana guarantor [nations] should be there, members of the Small Group should be there and China,” he said after the establishment of the committee had been announced.
Pedersen expressed the hope that “when the Syrian parties have now managed to agree to come together for the first time in this manner and to start working on their own constitution, that it will be possible for the key members of the international community to come together too and to express their support.”
“So I am now in the middle of the dialogue with two different elements of the international community to see how best we can do this.”
113 votes out of 150 needed for approval
On Jan. 30, 2018, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, agreed to set up a constitutional committee that would be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Syria. Pedersen’s predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, planned that the committee would draw on a pool of 150 names (50 delegates each to be fielded by Damascus, opposition and civil societies).
Each group will assign 15 representatives for writing the new constitution but the approval of each article will require the support of at least 113 members out of 150, meaning a three-fourth majority. The committee will elect a chairman and there are candidates for this position, Pedersen informed, stressing that the election will happen once all members meet in Geneva.
No timeline set for the charter
On questions about when the works on the new constitution would be terminated, he said a timeline for the establishment of a new constitution and the presidential elections had not been set yet.
“What is important is that we have an agreement, you know, with the government and with the opposition, that we will have a commitment to work seriously on moving forward within the constitutional committee and to start addressing the important issues. And then, this [the creation of a new document and elections date] will take only life on its own, and, as I said, it will have to be up to our Syrian friends how they are moving forward within the constitutional committee,” Pedersen said.
On Sept. 28, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres distributed in his letter to the Security Council the document prepared by the special envoy’s office with the terms of reference and core rules for the procedure of the Constitutional Committee, which members of the committee will also receive.
The document stated that the committee would hold its inaugural meeting in Geneva on Oct. 30. When asked about whether the committee would always be convening in Geneva, Pedersen said that it was too early to make such determinations.
“Always is a very strong term, but, you know, obviously, we will start in Geneva and then we will see how it develops,” the Norwegian diplomat said.