Delegations from Syria´s government, opposition, and civil society began a new round of meetings in Geneva on Monday aimed at revising the constitution of the war-torn country.
The fifth round of the so-called Constitutional Committee came days after UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen told the UN Security Council that many subjects have been discussed for more than a year and it´s now time for the committee to ensure that “the meetings are better organized and more focused.”
Syria´s nearly 10-year conflict has killed more than half a million people and displaced half the country´s pre-war 23 million population, including more than 5 million refugees mostly in neighboring countries.
“I believe that we need to ensure that the committee begins to move from `preparing´ a constitutional reform to `drafting´ one, as it is mandated to do,” Pedersen said last week.
The United States and several Western allies have accused Syria´s President Bashar Assad of deliberately delaying the drafting of a new constitution to waste time until presidential elections are held this year and avoid UN-supervised voting as called for by the UN Security Council.
According to Syria´s elections law, presidential elections are scheduled to take place between April 16 and May 16, at least 90 days before Assad´s seven-year term expires. Assad has been in power since 2000.
At a Russian-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. A 45-member committee known as the “Small Body” started its meetings in Geneva on Monday.
Monday´s meeting involved 15 people from each delegation and was taking place amid measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
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