The United Nations envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said the first round of Geneva talks on Syria’s constitution went “much better” than many would have expected. The government and opposition co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee have agreed to meet again on November 25.
“It’s been a very good start,” Pedersen said, wrapping up the first round of the committee meeting at the UN headquarters in Geneva on Friday.
“For me the important thing is that the different sides have come together, listened and treated each other with respect, working professionally and dealing with painful, substantial issues... I hope that we can continue in this spirit,” he said.
“I believe it has gone much better than most people would have expected,” he told reporters in Geneva, while stressing that the 150-member commission is “not the solution to the conflict”.
The Norwegian diplomat said the week-long talks had centred on issues of Syrian sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law and terrorism, but refused to give details.
The two committee co-chairs, from President Bashar Assad’s government and the leading opposition, have agreed to meet in Geneva for a second round on November 25 for one week.
“Each side will now reflect on discussions and go back and consult, and then hopefully come up with a work plan for the next meetings,” Pedersen said.
The head of the government delegation, Ahmad Kuzbari, said they had taken part seriously in the first round of talks and had attempted to find common ground. He insisted that the fight against terrorism had been a fundamental issue for his delegation.
At the same time he said they had not come to Geneva to build a new state or for political negotiations: "We have come here to reform the Constitution and to then ask the Syrian people to adopt it... we are a legal-technical delegation."
The head of the opposition delegation, Hadi Al-Bahra, admitted that the talks had not been easy. “We all had to be reasonable and go beyond the differences and focus on those points unifying all Syrians," he declared. "There were moments of heated discussions but also common denominators, especially when it comes to our homeland.”
Syrian officials had gathered in Geneva on October 30 for the launch of the first meeting of Syria’s Constitutional Committee.
The 150-member committee comprised 50 people selected by the Syrian government, 50 by the opposition and 50 by the UN from civil society. After an official ceremony, a smaller 45-member constitution drafting body began work on Monday.
Pedersen reiterated that the committee could be a “door-opener for the broader political process” in Syria, after almost nine years of war.
The UN views the work on the Syrian constitution as a key step towards implementing the 2012 roadmap to peace adopted by key nations, which includes a ceasefire and ends with UN-supervised elections. It was endorsed in the 2015 UN Security Council Resolution 2254external link.
The roadmap was approved by representatives of the UN, the Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five veto-wielding council members: the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.