Breakthrough in selecting Syrian Constitutional Committee to 'end war'

Breakthrough in selecting Syrian Constitutional Committee to 'end war'
The final six members of Syria's Constitutional Committee have been selected, after over a year of deadlock in choosing the civil society figures to take part in the peace initiative.
3 min read
05 July, 2019
UN Syria envoy Pedersen met Russia's FM Lavrov in Moscow [Getty]
A decision on which members will make up the Syrian Constitutional Committee are close to being finalised, following an announcement from the Turkish foreign minister, signalling an important step forward in the faltering 18-month peace effort.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said on Thursday that the deadlock over selecting the final six names for the committee had been resolved, meanwhile Russian sources claimed there had been an "important breakthrough" at meetings between the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The 150-member committee, intended to include members across political and societal factors, will be tasked with drafting a constitution for post-war Syria, a key development towards ending the eight-year conflict.

Discussions on the committee have been bogged down in disagreements between the UN and Bashar al-Assad's regime over the composition of three lists of members from the regime, opposition and civil society and religious groups.

The regime and the opposition have each finalised their 50 names, however the remaining list - composed of civil society and religious groups - has been hotly contested by each side.

However Pederson told Russia's TASS news agency on Thursday he is "quietly hopeful" the list of members will be finalised "soon".

A Russian source close to the Syrian negotiation confirmed to The New Arab a dispute over the final six members had been resolved, and will likely be announced upon Pedersen’s visit to Damascus beginning 10 July.

According to the source, the Syrian regime and its Russian backers will select two members, while Pedersen will appoint the other four in consultation with the UN Security Council those involved in the Astana process, namely Turkey, Iran and Russia.

Pedersen said he would soon meet with the Syrian regime and opposition to finalise the remaining details for the committee.

In a statement given on Thursday, he said the Constitutional Committee will be "a very important door opener for the political process". 

"I have been conscientious to pursue the buy-in of both Syrian parties and all others with influence on the situation," he said, adding that the finalised members must represent "the broadest possible spectrum" of Syrian society.

Pedersen also noted the Constitutional Committee will not end the conflict itself, and will not be the first or last thing that needs to happen after so many years of a brutal conflict that has so deeply divided the Syrian society.

The diplomat highlighted the primary importance of stabilising Idlib, the last remaining opposition-controlled area which has been subject to daily airstrikes from Russian forces and shelling by the regime.

News of progress comes just weeks after the US called for the peace initiative to be scrapped, saying the commission was unlikely to ever come into fruition.

It instead called on Pedersen to focus on preparing nationwide elections in which Syrian refugees would be allowed to vote, securing the release of detainees and establishing a nationwide ceasefire.

The Security Council has overseen a series of stalled diplomatic initiatives to end the war in Syria, now in its ninth year. Around 500,000 people have been killed and half of the country's population displaced during the war, most from regime bombing and shelling.

Backed by Russia and Iran, Assad's forces have regained control of most of the country's territory and set their sights on taking the northwestern Idlib region.