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Syrian government and opposition meet in talks on new constitution

SYRIAN government representatives and opposition groups met in Geneva today for United Nations-mandated talks after agreeing to start working on a new constitution.

“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,” UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said on Sunday.

The 45-member committee tasked with negotiating the new document had not met since January, with Mr Pederson saying that the groups concluded they needed to move forward with the stalled talks.

The need to establish a constitutional committee made up of members of the Syrian government, moderate opposition groups and civil society organisations first agreed at Russian-hosted peace talks in Sochi in January 2018.

All parties are expected to contribute on a rage of matters including Syria’s sovereignty and rule of law.

The long-awaited agreement comes after the re-election of President Bashar al-Assad in May as more countries restore diplomatic relations with Syria.

The country has been ravaged by a 10-year war headed by a myriad of jihadist groups, many of which have been funded, armed and trained by the US and other Western countries.

Mr Assad’s forces have now retaken control of large swathes of Syrian territory, although Islamist groups have a presence in the Turkish-occupied Idlib province.

Syria has called for all foreign occupying forces to leave the country, including the United States which has troops stationed in the Kurdish-majority north-east.

In August Mr Assad announced plans for decentralisation, which he said “achieves a balanced development among different Syrian areas.”

But the proposal met a mixed response from Kurdish representatives. 

Officials from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria are pursuing what is seen by many, including supporters, as a disastrous policy of seeking US recognition of the body.

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