UN envoy ready to convene new session of Syrian Constitutional Committee

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UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said that he is ready to convene a new session of the Constitutional Committee, which is tasked to draft a new constitution for the war-torn country.

“To be clear: I am ready to convene a seventh session of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as understandings are in place,” he told the Security Council in a briefing on Monday.

The envoy said his team and himself were actively engaged with the Syrian government and opposition in seeking to reconvene the Constitutional Committee, reports Xinhua news agency.

Just over a week ago, he travelled to Damascus and met Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and the co-chair nominated by the Syrian government.

In October and November, his deputy went twice to Damascus for consultations regarding a new session and met in Istanbul with the co-chair nominated by the Syrian opposition, said Pedersen.

“It is important that delegations not only table constitutional texts but that all, including the delegation that has not yet done so, are ready to commit to revising them in light of the discussions,” he said.

“We need a productive drafting process according to the committee’s mandate.”

The previous session in October failed as the co-chairs were not able to agree on the mechanisms for progressing the discussions on proposed constitutional texts further.

They also failed to agree on dates for future sessions.

“The committee must work, as its Terms of Reference outline, ‘expeditiously and continuously to produce results and continued progress’. I have discussed concretely with both co-chairs what this would look like, and I am continuing to engage in an effort to produce a clear understanding,” Pedersen told the Security Council.

Despite difficulties, he saw possibilities for progress on the political front.

All parties confront a strategic stalemate on the ground that has now continued for 21 months, with no shifts in front lines. The situation makes it increasingly clear that no existing actor or group of actors can determine the outcome of the conflict and that a military solution remains an illusion, he explained.

And there are grave risks and costs to all sides by simply trying to muddle through with the unacceptable status quo, especially given the humanitarian suffering, the continuing displacement crisis, the collapse of the economy, the de facto division of the country, the dangers of renewed escalation, and the continued threat of terrorism, he added.

Now is the time to explore whether a political process can meaningfully move forward in 2022. The status quo has many dangers, and it would be folly only to manage an unacceptable and deteriorating stalemate. Equally, the realities facing all parties should promote an interest in compromise and open opportunities for concrete steps forward on the political track, Pedersen said.

“No one should expect miracles or quick solutions. The path forward will be necessarily incremental. But I hope that this coming year we can work on concrete steps toward the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2254,” said the special envoy, referring to the resolution that provides a roadmap for a political settlement of the Syria crisis, including constitutional reform.

Pedersen stressed the need for a broader process.

Existing channels or formats all exclude at least one of the critical players — Syrian or international, he said.

“I am convinced that we need all of those with a stake in the conflict involved in a common political effort, if we are to see concrete progress on the issues that matter most — both to Syrians themselves and also in terms of regional stability.”

A broader process can set in motion a virtuous cycle of reciprocal steps and build trust and confidence, he said.

The year 2021 has been one deepening the suffering of the Syrian people, said Pedersen.

Despite no shift in front lines, there is continuing violence against civilians and systematic human rights abuses. Levels of hunger and poverty have escalated as the economy has continued to implode, with 14 million people in need, the highest number since the conflict began. Thirteen million Syrians remain displaced inside and outside the country. Many tens of thousands remain detained, abducted or missing, he said.

Syria remains fragmented into several areas that seem to be drifting apart, as de facto authorities entrench their control on the ground, and as five foreign armies continue to jostle in the theatre and Syria continues to radiate instability — a haven for mercenaries, drug trafficking and terrorism, the envoy added.

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