Syria’s Assad says talks on post-war constitution to ‘continue’

Syrian president says efforts to create constitutional committee ongoing following meetings with Moscow and UN envoy.

Syria''s President Bashar al-Assad speaks during a meeting with heads of local councils, in Damascus
UN Envoy Geir Pedersen announced 'progress' towards forming the body after meeting President Bashar al-Assad [Reuters via SANA]

Syria‘s President Bashar al-Assad has said discussions would “continue” over the composition of a body to draw up a post-war constitution for the country.

Meeting with Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, Assad discussed ongoing efforts towards “creating a committee to discuss the constitution”, the presidency said on Friday.

The president and Moscow’s representative “agreed to continue working and intensely coordinate between both sides on the next steps,” it said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the Syrian government and visiting United Nations Envoy Geir Pedersen announced “progress” towards forming the body, whose composition has dragged for more than 17 months.

Disagreements have raged over the names to be included in the committee, a third of which are to be nominated by the government, another by the opposition, and a final third by the UN envoy.

Damascus hopes to amend the current constitution, while the opposition wants to write a new one from scratch.

The UN envoy met the Syrian Negotiation Commission opposition grouping late Thursday “to discuss the results of Pedersen’s latest visit to Damascus”, it said on Twitter, without further details.

Pro-government newspaper al-Watan on Tuesday reported that a body could start work as early as September if Damascus agreed to Pedersen’s list.

Last month, the United States said it was time to scrap the constitutional committee initiative and come up with other ways to end the war.

Numerous rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to end a conflict that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

In recent years, a parallel negotiations track led by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey has taken precedence.

With key military backing from Russia, government forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebel groups since 2015, and now control around 60 percent of the country.

Source: AFP