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New round of Syria peace talks ends day 1 in Geneva

Both opposition and regime sides to continue constitutional talks to help end war in Syria

Peter Kenny   | 25.01.2021
New round of Syria peace talks ends day 1 in Geneva

GENEVA

The first day of a new round in Syrian peace talks ended Monday in Geneva involving both the regime and the opposition, ready to return but not to comment.

Geir Pedersen, the UN Syria envoy, is facilitating the five-day talks of the 45-strong Syrian Constitutional Committee aimed at a final peaceful solution after 10 years of war.

Members of what is known as the "Small Group," responsible for drafting the constitution – consisting of 15 people each from the Assad regime, NGOs, and representatives of the Syrian opposition – gathered in snowy Geneva.

Access to the talks was closed to the press due to coronavirus, and only UN camera operators and photojournalists were allowed in.

The main agenda item for the fifth round of the meetings – set to end Friday – is "basic principles of the constitution."

Hadi al Bahra, the former Syrian head of the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SMDK), is co-chair for the opposition, while the regime's co-chair is Ahmed Kuzbari, a lawyer.

At a hybrid press conference on Friday, Pedersen said the issues to be discussed this week could not be sorted by Syrians alone but also need international cooperation.

He added: "We have seen, of course, a relative calm since March, when we had the agreement between Russia and Turkey for the northwest [Idlib]. But as I've emphasized, this is a fragile calm.

"All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone. It needs international cooperation," said Pedersen.

In December, Pedersen said that after 10 years of conflict, it was not surprising that the process is slow-going and arduous.

Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

More than 5 million civilians have since been displaced.

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