Syrian opposition says UN must oversee constitution rewrite panel
UN's Syria envoy promises that proposal from Russia-backed Sochi talks "will become reality in Geneva"
Syria's main opposition group has said it will back a Russian-brokered proposal for constitutional reform as long as the process is led by the United Nations.
The decision to form a committee to amend the Syrian constitution before holding democratic elections was taken at the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue hosted by Russia in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.
Nasr Al Hariri, head of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) said on Thursday that “any constitutional committee must be formed at the UN and must include representation from the Syrian opposition".
The SNC had boycotted the congress in Russia, which is a supporter of the Syrian government, saying it would not lead to peace. The United States, Britain and France, which have supported the Syrian opposition, also skipped the meeting because of what they said was the Syrian government's refusal to properly engage in peace talks.
The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who attended the meeting despite heading a separate UN peace initiative, insisted that the SNC would have a “very substantial participation” in the committee and that its membership would not be limited to those present at the Sochi talks.
However, the fate of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad is expected to remain a major stumbling block. The opposition insists he must cede power as part of any deal to end a seven-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Mr Al Hariri said the opposition was determined to "work positively" with the proposed committee because Mr de Mistura would be responsible for setting it up.
"If the constitutional committee is set up ... within the UN process in Geneva, strictly consistent with UN resolution 2254, yes we will continue to work with the UN process in this regard," he said.
The resolution sets out a road map for peace in Syria. It sees an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people as the only sustainable solution to the current crisis.
Mr de Mistura said that the constitutional committee agreed to in Sochi "will become a reality in Geneva", where most of the UN-led peace talks have been held.
The UN envoy said he "would decide the criteria for committee members and select about 50 people, from government, opposition and independent groups".
Meanwhile, Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser for Syria, said on Thursday that “humanitarian diplomacy in Syria seems to be totally impotent”.
He said the UN had been unable to make humanitarian deliveries for the past two months because the Assad government had withheld approval for relief convoys.
Updated: February 1, 2018 09:26 PM