Sources in the Syrian opposition have told the Italian AKI agency that the issue of the constitutional committee, which will be discussed by the three guarantor countries—Russia, Iran and Turkey—in Sochi on Feb. 14, 2019, “is still plagued by differences and has not yet been decided.” It added that it is expected that the announcement of the committee’s formation will be delayed at the end of the meeting, unless Moscow changes the principles to which it is sticking and which conflict with those set out by the United Nations.
The sources said, “There is progress in the matter of the constitutional committee, which the United Nations has stressed must be formed, and which Russia has proposed be adopted. But this progress has not reached a point that allows for the approval of the United Nations and the United States. There are still fundamental disputes, including that Russia is insisting that two thirds of the committee go to the regime and figures close to them, which conflicts with the United Nations determinants, which say that just a third should be allocated to the regime.”
The sources also said that, the details, mechanisms, the presidency of the constitutional committee, and the guarantees are all issues which have not been agreed upon between Russia and the other guarantor countries, nor between Russia and the United Nations. This makes it likely that the announcement of the committee will not occur soon.
The sources added, “According to information we’ve received from the Turks, Russia will try, through the UN envoy, to offer the disputed third to those close to the regime, or at least those who are not calling for its overthrow or its change. This third will be discussed in meetings on Feb. 14, 2019, and it is not known whether or not this method will pass or not, especially on Turkey’s side.”
Syrian media quoted Russian attempts to change six to seven names from that third of the constitutional committee, which is the third that should include a list of independents and civil society representatives selected by the international envoy to Syria.
On Sunday, Ankara issued a statement after the Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister, Sedat Onal, met with the Russian President’s Envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Vershinin, in which it said that they had discussed the constitutional committee and the matter of starting it as soon as possible. It suggested that the constitutional committee could be announced within days, following Russian-Turkish talks in Ankara and Moscow, as well as Iranian-Russian talks in Tehran. Sources predicted that the announcement would not come until after the February summit in Sochi.
On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in a speech that Ankara was trying to focus on establishing a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria and to revive the Geneva conference as well as maintain the Astana and Sochi processes.
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.