UN envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen has welcomed a meeting next week in Geneva of the select committee of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, saying it was an "important step in the right direction".This content was published on August 21, 2020 - 16:55
The new week-long meeting starts on Monday, but Pedersen has already scheduled a meeting with Syrian representatives this weekend. He was hopeful that the parties could hold "substantive discussions".
But, he told a press conference, "nobody expects this meeting to produce a miracle or a breakthrough. It is the beginning of a long and complicated process". The Norwegian diplomat reiterated his call to "make progress" on the fate of abducted, detained and missing persons.
The discussions, organised under the aegis of the United Nations, will bring together 45 people chosen equally by the Damascus government, the opposition and the UN envoy. They will include representatives of civil society.
The delegations will gather in the same room but will not speak directly to each other. And because of the Covid-19 pandemic, representatives will have to wear masks and maintain a physical distance of two metres.
The UN hopes that this process will pave the way for a political settlement of the conflict, which has claimed more than 380,000 lives since 2011.
The second round of discussions of the Constitutional Committee ended at the end of November in Geneva with a disagreement over the agenda, preventing representatives of the government and the opposition from meeting.
In Geneva, multiple rounds of talks between the belligerents led by former UN envoy Staffan de Mistura also stumbled over the agenda of the negotiations, with Damascus insisting on talking about terrorism while the opposition demanded discussions on a political transition.