Syria Assad pledges to continue his efforts to form a constitutional committee

Syria: Assad pledges to “continue” his efforts to form a constitutional committee

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pledged Friday to “continue” efforts to form a constitutional committee, called for by the UN for a political settlement of the Syrian conflict, after a meeting with the Russian president’s special envoy for Syria.

The meeting with Alexander Lavrentiev comes two days after the visit of UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, during which Damascus announced, after months of deadlock, “progress” towards the formation of a committee responsible for drafting the constitution for the post-war period.

The meeting with the Russian special envoy “focused on ongoing efforts to make progress on a political (settlement) path, including the establishment of a committee to discuss the constitution, as well as mechanisms and working procedures “of this committee, said the Syrian presidency in a statement.

Prauding the “significant” progress made so far, the two men agreed to “continue the work and coordination (…) to achieve the expected results,” added the Syrian presidency.

Opponents of the Syrian regime want to write a new Constitution entirely, while Damascus only allows a few amendments.

The constitutional committee is provided for by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 calling for a ceasefire and a political transition. According to the proposed plan, it should consist of 150 members, 50 chosen by the regime, 50 by the opposition and 50 by the UN envoy.

Its creation stumbled on the rejection by Damascus of part of the nominations submitted by the United Nations.

Wednesday Mr Pedersen spoke of “good progress” and said both sides were “closer to an agreement”. The following day, he met in Istanbul with a delegation from the Syrian Negotiations Committee (NSC), which represents the main opposition groups.

The discussions focused on the results of Pedersen’s recent visit to Damascus, the CNS reported on Twitter.

The UN envoy, who took office in January, hopes to restart the peace process, stalled after more than eight years of war.

His predecessor Staffan de Mistura had attempted to form a constitutional committee.

Many rounds of UN-led talks have unsuccessfully tried to end the conflict that has claimed more than 370,000 lives and pushed millions into exile since 2011.

In recent years, parallel negotiations have also been conducted under the aegis of the Russian ally of the Syrian regime and Turkey, which supports rebel groups.

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