The head of the Syrian Negotiations Committee, Nasr al-Hariri, held talks with the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, and pointed to a positive rapprochement between the committee and Moscow.
Hariri said that the committee’s talks with Pedersen and with the Russian president’s Special Envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, in Riyadh, had discussed various issues related to the political process, most prominently the constitutional committee which “we are very near the end” of forming.
On Sunday, Hariri said during a press conference held in Riyadh that the discussions with Pedersen on Wednesday in Geneva revolved around the formation of the constitutional committee in particular and, “focused on three main issues [with regards to the committee]: oversight, authorization, and rules of procedure. We are able to say that we are close to a constitutional committee that will be formed under UN supervision as part of implementing Resolution 2254, which will be an important step to launching the political process.”
He added that: “there is agreement about the larger number of committee members, and there are still ongoing discussions around the number of names. I believe that we will be able, in a short time, to agree on these names. There is agreement about the largest portion of procedural rules.”
With regards to the Committee’s meeting on Friday in Riyadh with a Russian delegation headed by Lavrentiev, Hariri said there was a, “long and detailed positive meeting in which we discussed various issues, most prominently the need to maintain the Sochi agreement in Idleb… and stop the regime’s violations.” He said: “We are keen to fight terrorist groups and be rid of them, such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in all its names, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, but we do not want that to be used as a pretext to target civilians and make political gains for the regime.”
Hariri notably discussed a “positive” rapprochement between the committee and Moscow, saying: “We are in a positive phase of increasing understanding between the Negotiations Committee and Russia. We welcome this rapprochement because we all know that there must be a political solution in Syria and Russia has a major role in Syria. Without this dialogue [with Russia] we cannot reach a result.”
While Hariri focused on a “phase of increasing understanding” between the committee he heads and Russia, he also noted the “clear penetration of Iranian militias in various areas, especially in the south. Political, military and security penetration.” He said that “Iran is exploiting what is happening in northern and northeastern Syria and the preoccupation with the political process and the details of the process in order to increase its influence and to send its various proxies into Syria.”
This comes after two visits by Russian delegations to Damascus on Friday and Saturday and meetings with the regime head there, Bashar al-Assad, who on Tuesday also received Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as the date for a new round of Astana talks approaches.
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.