Syria sides agree to discuss draft constitution: UN
The UN says Syria’s warring parties have agreed to set up expert committees to discuss “constitutional issues” as part of efforts to facilitate a political resolution of the deadly conflict in the Arab country.
UN mediator Staffan de Mistura’s office made the announcement on Thursday.
De Mistura held a series of separate meetings with representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups to discuss “legal and constitutional issues of relevance to the intra-Syrian talks”.
The sixth round of Syrian peace talks began under the auspices of the United Nations in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday.
De Mistura has presented Syria’s main opposition bloc, the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), with a document proposing a team of civil society activists and technocrats tasked with mapping a way forward to a draft law.
A new constitution for Syria is one of the four separate topics or “baskets” on the agenda at the ongoing talks, alongside governance, elections and combating “terrorism”.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the UN’s announcement on Thursday, government delegation head Bashar al-Jaafari however said his team had “not discussed any baskets yet”.
The Syrian diplomat described the UN’s earlier plan as “too ambitious”. Jaafari also played down that the expert meetings would push the constitutional process forward.
“The work of these experts will have nothing to do with the constitution… They will not take decisions.”
Since March 2011, Syria has been gripped by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies that have long pushed for the ouster of the Damascus government.
Several rounds of peace talks have been held in Geneva and the Kazakh capital, Astana.
The Astana talks, brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey, have most recently produced a memorandum of understanding on de-escalation zones in Syria, sharply reducing fighting in the country.