The UN’s special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said Wednesday he expects a committee representing the Syrian government and the opposition to resume constitutional talks next month.
Geir Pedersen spoke to reporters in the capital Damascus after he met with Syrian officials, including Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad, over the country’s lengthy conflict.
Talks were last held in Geneva in October when Pedersen said the Syrian government’s refusal to negotiate on revisions to the country’s constitution was a key reason for their failure.
“I must say that after my discussions today, I am more optimistic that it will be possible to convene the seventh round of the drafting body of the constitutional committee, hopefully sometime in March,” Pedersen said.
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Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011 has killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including more than 5 million refugees mostly in neighboring countries. Though fighting has subsided in recent months, there are still pockets controlled by the Syrian opposition, where millions of people live.
A 2012 UN road map to peace in Syria approved by representatives of the United Nations, Arab League, European Union, Turkey, and all five permanent Security Council members calls for the drafting of a new constitution. It ends with UN-supervised elections with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. A Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 unanimously endorsed the road map.
Pedersen said he would meet later Wednesday with government representative Ahmad Kuzbari and then contact the opposition’s Syrian National Council after which “we will be able to send out an invitation.”
The talks in October followed a nine-month hiatus in the UN-led meetings of the Syrian constitutional committee.
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. A smaller 45-member body would do the actual drafting, including 15 members each from the government, opposition, and civil society. It took until September 2019 for the committee to be formed.