The Syrian government and opposition groups have agreed to start drafting new constitutional provisions. The milestone announcement came during renewed United Nations-mandated negotiations in Geneva this week.

At a brief news conference, UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said, “The two co-chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting the constitutional reform.”

Pedersen said, “We concluded that we were not making sufficient progress and that we could not continue the way we have been working. Since then, close to nine months, I’ve been negotiating between the parties, trying to establish a consensus on how we are going to move forward.”

The UN envoy said that the country continues to face compounding crises and urged the international community to address the “other aspects” of the situation.

Pedersen said, “We daily have civilians being killed and injured. There are more than 13 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance, and close to 90 per cent are living below the poverty line.”

A new constitution?

The constitutional committee is made up of 45 members from the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society. The committee will negotiate and draft the new constitutional provisions.

The body has not held a meeting since last January.

Earlier, the delegations arrived in Geneva and held preliminary discussions with Pedersen. Starting today, further talks will be held over this week.

Earlier in January 2018, Russian-hosted a Syrian peace conference in Sochi. The conference agreed to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution until September 2019. It was agreed that the Syrian government, political opposition, and civil society will be equally represented in the committee.

The smaller committee of 45 individuals constitutes all relevant parties with the same proportion.

The war without an end

Syria’s war has killed about 500,000 people over the past 10 years, which started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests. It later turned into a complex battlefield involving foreign armies, local militias, and foreign fighters.

Earlier in May, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected for a fourth time with 95.1 per cent of the vote in government-held areas. Western countries and opposition groups say the elections were not free and fair.


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