UN envoy urges Syria to rejoin Geneva constitution talks

AFP , Sunday 17 Mar 2024

Visiting United Nations special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen urged Damascus Sunday to rejoin talks to revise the country's constitution, warning that political dialogue was going "in the wrong direction".

Syria s Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad (R) meets with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen in Damascus on March 17, 2024. AFP


Pedersen has been trying to make progress with a so-called constitutional committee for Syria to rewrite or amend the war-torn country's constitution since October 2019, with little success.

The Geneva talks halted in 2022 after Damascus ally Moscow had objected to the meeting being held in Switzerland, questioning its neutrality after it imposed sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

"The situation in Syria now is extremely difficult, and I think all indicators are pointing in the wrong direction when it comes to security, when it comes to the economy, and when it comes to the political process," Pedersen told reporters in Damascus.

"We should continue to meet in Geneva and develop the constitutional committee and the work of the committee in the manner that could give hope to the Syrian people," Pedersen said after meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

Pedersen said last month that Moscow and Damascus had rejected holding a ninth round of talks in Geneva, the established location for the talks, and that the parties had failed to agree on an alternate venue.

He had said he was issuing invitations for the meeting to be held in the Swiss city in late April, warning that "an indefinite hiatus can only undermine the constitutional committee's credibility and work".

On Sunday, the UN envoy said he had repeated the proposal during his meeting with Mekdad.

"We need progress on the political front," said Pedersen, who mediates the discussions between representatives from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, the opposition, and civil society.

While the opposition had sought to negotiate for a transitional phase envisioning Assad's departure, UN-facilitated talks are now limited to revising the constitution.

Endless rounds of UN-backed peace talks failed to stop the Syrian conflict and in recent years have been largely overtaken by parallel discussions involving rebel-backer Turkey and Damascus allies Russia and Iran.

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