Amid intensified consultations among the guarantors of the Astana track with regards to forming the constitutional committee, Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, arrived in Tehran on Tuesday.
Muallem’s trip comes ahead of a summit with the heads of the countries overseeing Astana (Russia, Iran and Turkey) on Feb. 14, 2019, and after the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that work to form the committee was “nearly complete.” Meanwhile, the head of the National Reconciliation agency, Ali Haider, said that the most important conditions for the committee’s success were for it to, “carry out its role far from any foreign pressure or political conditions.” According to the Iranian Fars News Agency, Muallem and the UN Special Envoy are visiting the Iranian capital to hold discussions with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif.
The formation of the constitutional committee is one of the recommendations of the Syrian National Dialogue conference, which was hosted in the Russian city of Sochi in January 2018, but the former envoy Staffan de Mistura failed to form it.
The UN has previously described Pedersen’s meeting with Muallem in Damascus last month as “constructive,” quoting the new UN envoy as stressing, “the need for a political solution based on UN Resolution 2254, which emphasizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and calls for a political solution with Syrian ownership and leadership and facilitated by the United Nations.” Pedersen said that the discussions regarding various aspects of the Geneva peace process would continue, and that he agreed with Muallem to visit Damascus regularly to discuss points of agreement and achieve progress in addressing disputed issues.
According to Fars, it is expected that Muallem will meet his counterpart Zarif in the capital Tehran to discuss with him the latest developments in Syria, with Zarif to later receive the UN Special Envoy. Russia Today said that Muallem will meet President Hassan Rouhani as well.
Fars noted that during his visit to Tehran, Pedersen would meet Senior Adviser to the Iranian Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Hossein Jaberi Ansari.
The agency said that Muallem and Pedersen’s trip to Tehran came as the Russian resort town of Sochi was set to convene a tripartite summit for the heads of the guarantor countries of the Astana process. Lavrov announced this yesterday, saying that the scope for a settlement in Syria would be considered “at the February summit with the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Sochi.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously said that the presidents of the guarantor countries would hold a meeting in Sochi, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin would hold bilateral talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the same day.
Eleven meetings, based on the Astana track, have been held regarding the crisis in Syria, one in Sochi at the end of last July. All of them have stressed strict adherence to maintaining Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial unity, as well as continuing the war against terrorist organizations until they are finally defeated.
According to the SANA news agency, Lavrov said in a speech delivered to students at the Kyrgyz–Russian Slavic University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, “In parallel with the war against terrorism, there is a political process underway in which Russia, Turkey and Iran have adopted an initiative based on the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Conference, which was held a year ago in Sochi to form a committee to discuss the constitution.” He added that, “Work on this initiative is finishing now.” The Russia Today website quoted Lavrov as saying that, “work to form the committee is nearly complete.”
Putin had said, after the summit he held with Erdogan on Jan. 23, 2019, that France, Britain and Germany were holding up the formation of the committee, and said, “We have heard from our Western partners that this work is incomplete and has not yet finished.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.