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New round of talks on Syria begins with focus on new constitution

UN special envoy on Syria says talks on drafting process of new constitution taking place this week

Peter Kenny   | 18.10.2021
New round of talks on Syria begins with focus on new constitution Representatives of Bashar al-Assad regime, non-governmental organizations and representatives of the Syrian opposition attend the 6th round of Syrian constitutional talks in Geneva, Switzerland on October 18, 2021. ( Omer Faruk Yildiz - Anadolu Agency )

GENEVA

A new round of talks focusing on a new constitution for war-torn Syria began Monday in Geneva, with the opposition side saying they will continue, but with the outcome unclear at this stage.

The opposition co-chair of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, Hadi al-Bahra, said after day one, "the talks will go ahead tomorrow."

He said he could not predict the outcome of the talks, which are scheduled to continue till the end of the week.

In January, a round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva had failed as the sides could not agree on how to engage.

His co-chair on the constitutional committee from the Syrian regime, Ahmad Kuzbari, left Monday's talks earlier without commenting.

The UN special envoy on Syria Geir Pedersen had told journalists on Sunday: "We now start the drafting process of the Constitutional Committee.

"And of course, while we are doing that, we all realize that we are not working in a vacuum, we understand the realities of the ground in Syria, we know that since last March 2020, there has been relative calm on the ground."

Relative calm

But Pedersen pointed out that calm is relative "because we daily have civilians being killed and injured, and my appeal has therefore been that we need to do something to correct the situation."

He said that the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an essential contribution to the political process for the country.

"But the committee in itself will not be able to solve the Syrian crisis, so we need to come together, with serious work, on the Constitutional Committee, but also address the other aspects of the Syrian crisis," said the UN envoy.

Pedersen said that on Sunday, another important meeting took place.

"For the first time, the two co-chairs, the one nominated by the government and the other nominated by the opposition, were sitting down together with me for a substantial and frank discussion on how we are to proceed with the constitutional reform," he said.

They also talked about planning for the week ahead, said the UN envoy.

At another press conference on Sunday, Al-Bahra said: "It is not the first time we see face to face each other. Because as you know, in the previous five sessions of the constitutional committee, all members were meeting in the same place and talking to each other in the same room.

"But there was previously no direct negotiation between the two co-chairs."

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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