UN envoy sets up talks on Syria constitution

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  • Staffan de Mistura told reporters he plans to sit down with senior officials from countries backing the Assad regime and the opposition to discuss creating a commission to hammer out a post-war constitution for Syria.
  • Bashar Assad has submitted a list of 50 names to sit on the commission. Syrian opposition groups have failed to do so yet.

JEDDAH: The UN envoy for Syria said on Thursday he will kickstart work toward a new constitution for the war-ravaged country with a series of meetings in coming weeks.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters he plans to sit down with senior officials from Damascus backers Russia and Iran, as well as opposition supporter Turkey, at the UN on Monday and Tuesday. He has also scheduled talks at the UN the following week with envoys from Britain, France, Germany, Jordan, the US and Saudi Arabia.

The talks are aimed at creating a commission to hammer out a post-war constitution, an effort that the UN has been asked to facilitate.

The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has submitted a list of 50 names to sit on the commission. Syrian opposition groups have failed to do so yet and de Mistura said “there is a need for progress on that soon.”

Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman for the opposition, said this will not end the conflict. However, it might be a plausible start if the parties supporting the regime are serious, “and if they feel they are in trouble if they don’t bring the regime into a political solution,” he said.

He said putting all these efforts together could be a huge contribution particularly when there is harmony between what the US is proposing and what Russia is proposing. “Such harmony could be helpful in developing solutions.”

He added that the opposition believed the formulation of the constitutional committee is not the only issue that needs addressing.

The Syrian revolution did not start because of problems in the constitution, he said. “However, the constitution could be one of the pillars for political transition, in addition to elections and the formulation of the governing body, all of which in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

“If the regime and its backers think that redoing the constitution is all that needs to be done, they are wrong. This will be in conflict with what the UN wants, what the world wants and what the Syrians want with regard to a solution to the Syrian issue.”

Al-Aridi rejected any role for Assad in Syria. “According to the UN Security Council resolutions, two parties, the opposition and the regime, need to work on the implementation of the UN resolutions by founding a transitional governing body that would work on the constitution, governance, elections and the transitional period that should bring Syria back to the peace track and its people from diaspora, etc.

“Assad’s role is minor in this task. Had it not been for Iran and Russia, the regime wouldn’t have been there. We are dealing with Assad’s backers, not the regime itself,” he said.

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