UN chief announces creation of Syria constitutional committee
The decision is a long-awaited step in a stalled peace process to end the eight-year civil war
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced the formation of a new constitutional committee on Syria, saying it could begin to steer the country out of civil war.
The long-delayed committee will include government and opposition representatives and convene in Geneva in the coming weeks.
“I strongly believe that the launch of the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led constitutional committee can and must be the beginning of the political path out of the tragedy, towards a solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians and is based on a strong commitment to the country’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity," Mr Guterres told reporters at the UN General Assembly in New York, announcing that an agreement had been reached.
It came after Geir Pedersen, the secretary general's special envoy for Syria, held a final round of talks in Damascus on Sunday with officials from Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime.
The committee is tasked with writing a new constitution that will culminate in elections.
“The constitutional committee’s launch and work must be accompanied by concrete actions to build trust and confidence as my special envoy discharges his mandate to facilitate a broader political process forward,” Mr Guterres said.
The UN sees the committee as a next step in efforts to find a political solution to the situation in Syria. It was a central goal of Mr Pedersen's predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, who worked for almost a year to advance the plan before leaving his post in December.
At the time, Mr de Mistura had been unable to overcome resistance from Damascus about who would sit on the committee.
In turn, Syria's opposition did not see the reforms as sufficient to secure its demands for Mr Al Assad's immediate removal as president and for the dissolution of the ruling Baath Party. These demands stemmed from anger at the crackdown by the regime and concerns that the Syrian president would find a way to remain in power, even with moderate changes to the constitution and electoral system.
However, the High Negotiations Committee, an umbrella group of opposition figures, subsequently agreed to participate in the constitutional process, as did the Syrian government, who gave in to pressure from Russia, its main ally in the war that began in 2011.
Updated: September 23, 2019 08:07 PM