Syria constitution talks make little progress, says UN mediator

Tentative talks could pave the way towards a broader political process but are going slowly, Geir Pedersen says

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said this week's eighth round of talks had made scant progress. AFP
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An eighth round of talks on a new constitution for Syria concluded on Friday with rival parties having made very little headway, the UN mediator said.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee was created in September 2019 and first convened a month later.

The tentative negotiations are aimed at rewriting the war-torn country's constitution and it is hoped the talks could pave the way towards a broader political process.

The discussions between 15 representatives each from President Bashar Al Assad's government, the opposition, and civil society are being mediated by UN envoy Geir Pedersen.

But the Norwegian diplomat said this week's eighth round of talks, co-led by the leaders of the government and the opposition delegations, had made scant progress.

The talks discussed constitutional principles, including preserving and strengthening state institutions, the supremacy of the constitution and the hierarchy of international agreements as well as transitional justice.

One day was spent discussing draft constitutional texts on each principle, presented by a delegation.

On Friday, the fifth day, delegations submitted revisions to the texts following the week's discussions.

“On some, the differences remained significant. On others, there were areas of potential common ground,” Mr Pedersen's office said in a statement.

“At the same time, the special envoy has identified the slow pace of work and the continuing inability to identify and conclude concrete areas of provisional agreement as areas where there is much room for improvement.”

Mr Pedersen's office said that he agreed with the co-chairmen on the importance of working out ways to expedite the work and producing results as well as continued progress. He also shared ideas for the delegations' consideration.

“He reiterates his appeal to all members to work with a sense of compromise and to work towards constitutional texts that would likely attract broad support among Syrians,” his office said.

The co-chairmen agreed to hold a ninth session of talks in Geneva from July 25 to 29.

Syria's civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent repression of protests demanding regime change.

It quickly spiralled into a complex conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including extremist groups and foreign powers. The war has left about half a million people dead and displaced millions.

Throughout the war, the UN has been striving to nurture a political resolution.

Updated: June 03, 2022, 11:46 PM