Talks on drafting a constitution for Syria will reconvene next month in Geneva, the UN special envoy for the war-ravaged nation told the Security Council on Tuesday.
“It has now been exactly two years” since the committee was created to draft the new constitution as agreed by the government in Damascus and the Syrian Negotiations Commission, but “regrettably, the committee has not yet begun to make steady progress on its mandate,” Geir Pedersen said.
“I am pleased to announce that agreement is in place on methodology,” he said, adding that the drafting committee will convene in Geneva as of October 18. Pederson toured the region and spent 18 months negotiating with the parties involved.
“We should all now expect the Constitutional Committee to begin to work seriously on a process of drafting – not just preparing – a constitutional reform,” he said.
Building trust among participants, which include the government, opposition groups, and civil society organisations, will be crucial towards creating a “credible constitutional process”, Pedersen added.
The envoy also expressed hope that a Wednesday summit between the presidents of Russia and Turkey would help “promote calm” within Syria, particularly the northwestern region of Idlib, which is home to the last key rebel stronghold.
Syria’s war has killed about 500,000 people since starting in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, spiralling into a complex battlefield involving foreign armies, militias, and armed fighters.
At a Russia-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution, which took until September 2019.
The fifth and most recent round of meetings aimed at revising the constitution was held in January this year with the participation of delegates from the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society.
At the time, the US and several Western allies accused Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad – who has been in power since 2000 – of deliberately delaying the drafting of a new constitution to waste time until presidential elections were held this year and avoid UN-supervised voting as called for by the UN Security Council.
In May, al-Assad was re-elected for a fourth term with 95.1 percent of the votes cast in government-held areas.