Syria talks to begin in Geneva this week

UN envoy Geir Pedersen hopeful of outcome and urges officials to act seriously to draft new constitution

UN envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen is hoping for steady progress from talks between Syria’s government, opposition and civil society. EPA
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Representatives of Syria’s government, opposition and civil society are set to begin UN-led talks to draft a new constitution this week.

Set in the Swiss city of Geneva, the talks will be the seventh round between 15 members of each of Syria’s three factions. The latest round in October ended with no agreement on how to move forward.

The UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, said the parties have agreed on a deal and decided to meet again with his help.

Mr Pedersen has met those who co-chair the committee and they have agreed on a work agenda for the coming week. But said he is sceptical due to the failures of the previous tslks.

“If the three delegations do what they have said they will do, I hope that we can see some steady progress,” Mr Pedersen said. “But I learnt that through the six previous rounds of talks, I should not prejudge the outcome of the discussion.”

Mr Pedersen said the negotiations would seek to draft for popular approval, a reform, either through an amendment of the current constitution or by drafting a new one.

“I have consistently said that the committee should work in a way that builds trust and confidence. And during this session, I hope to see the constitution committee work with a sense of seriousness and purpose and determination to make progress that the situation demands,” said the UN official.

Part of Syria’s road to peace, pushed by the UN in 2012, is the drafting of a new constitution, followed by supervised elections.

However, last May, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad held presidential elections, which he won by a landslide, official figures showed.

It was considered a sham by western countries.

“Let me start by emphasising the obvious, and that is thatSyria remains one of the gravest crises in the world and that there is a clear need for progress towards a political solution,” Mr Pedersen said.

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The seventh round of talks will focus on the basics of governing, state identity, state symbols and the structure and functions of public authorities.

The delegates will spend one day working on each principle, before spending Friday trying to concretise any advances made.

The co-chairmen of the committee are Ahmad Kuzbari, head of government delegation, and Syrian opposition negotiations leader Hadi Al Bahra.

The Syrian war entered its 11th year in March. At least 500,000 people have been killed and half of the country’s population of 23 million has been displaced.

More than five million refugees have been scattered across the borders.

Updated: March 21, 2022, 8:52 AM