Syria’s constitution got a shot in the arm when the United Nations along with Turkey, Iran and Russia voiced hope that the committee charged with writing it will begin work in early 2019.
Incidentally, the Syrian government, which has the backing of both Russia and Iran, has yet to agree on the constituents of the committee; it has stated it will only support a process that alters Syria’s existing constitution.
To commemorate the creation of rewriting Syria’s constitution, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, flanked by his Turkish and Russian counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and Mohammad Javad Zarif, respectively, read out a joint declaration after holding talks with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who knows very well the Middle East (he was the personal representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon from 2001 to 2004).
In a statement Lavrov said, Russia, Turkey and Iran have “agreed to take efforts aimed at convening the first session of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva early next year”.
The committee, set up to write Syria’s constitution, has become the centerpiece of UN peace efforts in Syria; it is now aiming to set up elections in Syria which will be a milestone after seven years of devastating war.
The committee has received praise from De Mistura, who will be replaced as UN envoy on January 7, who said, it received “significant joint input” from the three powers.
The Unietd States, which has a tense diplomatic relations with both Russia and Iran, recalled that the initial goal was to set up the committee which will write Syria’s constitution by the end of 2018 itself.
“The establishment and convening by the end of the year of a credible and balanced constitutional committee in Geneva is an important step to lasting de-escalation and a political solution to this conflict,” said Robert Palladino, the U.S. State Department’s spokesman.
On Tuesday, Syria’s pro-government newspaper Al-Watan produced a report which underscored de Mistura’s tense relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. A sign that extent of headwinds facing the committee which has been tasked to write Syria’s constitution.
“In Damascus, we will never be sorry for Staffan de Mistura’s departure,” reads a report from Al-Watan. It goes on to state, De Mistura is “leaving with regret that he couldn’t destroy the Syrian state and couldn’t impose the West’s agenda on Syrians,” while chastising efforts to “impose a new constitution on Syrians.”
De Mistura, an astute UN diplomat, put a positive spin on his push for peace that will allow the committee to write Syria’s constitution, and suggested that protracted rounds of diplomacy had played a significant role in limiting bloodshed in Syria.
“The fact that you have been coming up constantly with your team with new meetings, preparatory meetings, inter-discussions, ceasefires that didn’t work and then worked and didn’t work again… we have been calculating that instead of 540,000 people (dead) there would have been 1.3 million,” said De Mistura to reporters quoting an anonymous source.