UN envoy seeks to kick-start Syria constitutional committee

UN envoy seeks to kick-start Syria constitutional committee

United Nations: The UN peace envoy for Syria hopes to get a new constitutional committee up and running by late September to inject fresh momentum in efforts to end the seven-year war, the Security Council president said Wednesday.

Staffan de Mistura will travel to Russia’s Black Sea city of Sochi next week for talks with Russia, Iran and Turkey on finalizing the list of members of the committee tasked with rewriting the Syrian constitution.

The envoy told a closed meeting of the Security Council that he was hoping to make progress on setting up the committee before the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in late September.

With “world leaders coming here, there needs to be progress on the constitutional committee,” said Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, who holds the council presidency this month.

“That would be an extremely useful timeline to have, to show that there is now political momentum rather than the military logic that we have seen up to now.”

De Mistura, who has been leading UN efforts on Syria since 2014, was tasked with setting up the committee during a Russian-backed congress held in Sochi in January that was boycotted by the opposition.

The Syrian government has expressed reservations about the proposal but in May, it sent a list of names of officials to take part in the new diplomatic effort. The opposition recently also sent its list of delegates.

The council expressed its “full support” for the envoy’s efforts and called on the Syrian parties to “engage constructively” with De Mistura in setting up the committee, Skoog told reporters.

The envoy, who briefed the council by videoconference from Geneva, did not discuss the prospect of holding a new round of peace talks after the last meeting broke down in December.

The eighth round of talks in Geneva ended without progress, with the sides at odds over opposition demands for a transition of power that would end President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Assad’s forces have since made gains on the ground, re-taking Eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, and pressing ahead with an offensive in the south, bringing most of Daraa province under their control.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria’s war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Agence France-Presse

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