UN envoy calls for Syrian Constitutional Committee to resume work soon

Moscow, Jul 7 (EFE).- The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria expressed hope Wednesday in Kazakhstan’s capital that the Syrian Constitutional Committee – a body tasked with drafting a new constitution for the war-torn country – will resume its work in Geneva in the near future.

“I hope we will soon be able to agree on a new meeting and continue discussions within the framework of the sixth round of the Constitutional Committee,” Geir Pedersen told reporters on the first day of a meeting in Kazakhstan of the Syrian ceasefire guarantor countries: Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The meeting in Nur-Sultan is the latest gathering of the so-called Astana process, which is aimed at ending Syria’s decade-old civil war.

The Norwegian diplomat was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS that he had had positive discussions in the Kazakh capital on the constitution-drafting issue and hoped that regular meetings can be held.

“I’ve felt strong support for the work we’re doing,” Pedersen added.

Russia’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said for his part that the next meeting of the Constitutional Committee could take place this summer.

“July is already unlikely, but possibly this summer,” he said, adding that Pedersen will be making arrangements through talks with representatives of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition.

“We urge the UN secretary general’s special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, to work in this direction. All of the delegations, both ours and the Iranian delegation, expressed their support for the continuation of this work, their interest in it. He assured us that he’ll keep working,” Lavrentiev said.

The last meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee – made up of Syrian government, opposition and civil society representatives – was held in Geneva in January.

Pedersen acknowledged then that negotiations on drafting a new constitution for Syria were failing.

In June, the Norwegian diplomat told the UN Security Council that amid an ongoing stalemate in political negotiations he would try to push for practical agreements in Syria on issues such as prisoner exchanges, the ceasefire and economic recovery, saying the goal was to build confidence between the different sides in the conflict.

Besides Russia, Iran and Turkey, the participants in this latest round of the Astana process also include delegations from the Syrian government and the opposition and representatives from Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, which along with Turkey and Egypt have taken in the bulk of the 5.6 million Syrians who have sought refuge from the conflict in neighboring countries.

Wednesday’s talks were restricted to closed-door bilateral and trilateral meetings, while a plenary session and a press conference are to be held Thursday at the end of this 16th high-level meeting.

The talks will focus on the conflict on the ground in Syria, humanitarian assistance to the country, the socio-economic and Covid-19 situations and confidence-building measures, including the exchange of prisoners, the release of hostages and the search for missing persons.

Last Friday, Russia and Turkey reported an exchange of five Syrian soldiers for five members of armed rebel groups.

A new meeting of the working group on forcibly detained persons, consisting of the ceasefire guarantor countries, the UN and experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), also is to be held on the sidelines of the Nur-Sultan gathering. EFE


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