UN Syria talks resume after coronavirus cases forced suspension

UN-backed talks on new Syrian constitution were halted on Monday after four delegates tested positive for COVID-19.

United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen
UN envoy Geir Pedersen has called the talks a prospective 'door-opener' to a final resolution of Syria's devastating nine-year civil war [Fabrice Coffrini/AFP]

The United Nations has said talks aimed at rewriting the Syrian constitution have resumed after a three-day pause caused by positive cases of coronavirus among four participants.

The discussions between the representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the opposition and civil society resumed in Geneva on Thursday after Swiss health authorities gave the green light.

UN envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, who is moderating the talks, has voiced hope it could pave the way towards a broader political process in Syria.

The talks resumed at 2pm (12:00 GMT) on Thursday “with full social distancing and related precautions in place,” his office said in a statement.

Pedersen has called the talks a prospective “door-opener” to a final resolution of Syria’s devastating nine-year civil war.

The meeting is the first of its kind in nine months after the coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of an earlier meeting in March.

The committee members – 15 each from Syria’s government, the opposition and civil society – were tested for the new coronavirus before they travelled to Geneva, and were tested again on arrival in the Swiss city.

One opposition delegate, one from civil society and two representing the government tested positive, opposition negotiations leader Hadi al-Bahra told a virtual news briefing on Tuesday.

The discussions had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday, but Pedersen said the plan now was to extend the talks into Saturday.

The Constitutional Committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later.

“This new constitution has to live up to the aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy, for equal citizenship, to guarantee their rights, and to make them equal in the eyes of the law in their duties and in their rights,” al-Bahra said.

The UN has been striving for more than nine years to nurture a political resolution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced at least 11 million.

Source: News Agencies