Syria’s FM discusses constitutional committee with UN envoy

Syria’s foreign minister discussed Monday the formation of a constitutional committee and its work with U.N. special envoy Geir Pedersen who said that “all the outstanding issues” related to it were being addressed in talks.

Pedersen’s visit to Syria comes a week after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that a long-sought agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria. The formation of the 150-member committee is an important step toward hopefully ending Syria’s conflict.

The U.N. chief said last week that Pedersen “is doing the final work” on finalizing details of the committee, and hoped “this will be very soon concluded.”

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem’s meeting with Pedersen focused on the committee’s setup and guarantees that it be free “from any foreign intervention.”

SANA added that only the Syrian people should have the right to determine their future “without external pressures in what guarantees restoring security and stability to all parts of Syria.”

Al-Moallem said, according to SANA, that Damascus will have the right to continue fighting “terrorism in accordance with international law.”

A cease-fire has gone into effect at the end of August halting a major government offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last remaining stronghold in the country. Idlib is mostly controlled by al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham that is considered a terrorist organization.

“Today I have concluded another round of a very successful discussion with Foreign Minister al-Moallem,” Pedersen told reporters after the meeting. “We addressed all the outstanding issues related to the constitutional committee.”

Pedersen added that he has also been in contact with Nasr al-Hariri, who heads the committee that represents the Syrian opposition.

At a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. This was a key step toward elections and a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, which has killed over 400,000 people.

There was early agreement on 50-member lists from the Syrian government and the opposition. But it has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorized to put together representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women, mainly because of objections from the Syrian government.


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