First session for new Syria constitution to be held early next year

First session for new Syria constitution to be held early next year
Turkey, Russia and Iran say the first session for a new Syrian constitution will be held next year.
2 min read
19 December, 2018
Lavrov made the announcement on the constitution committee [Getty]

The first session for drafting a new Syrian constitution will be held early next year, with the foreign ministers from Russia, Iran and Turkey saying they hoped it would lead to a "viable and lasting" peace process.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov read out a short statement saying the committee should be governed by a "sense of compromise and constructive engagement".

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura appeared less optimistic, saying "there is an extra mile to go in the marathon effort" to ensure the emergence of a balanced constitutional committee. He refused to elaborate in his comments to reporters in Geneva following the meeting.

He will step down on 31 December, but has made the success of a constitution framework a key aim in his final days at the UN's Syria representative.

The 150-member committee is intended to represent the Syrian regime, opposition and civil society.

Bashar al-Assad's regime has rejected the drawing up of a new constitution, and instead wants the current one amended instead. 

A new constitution is seen by the UN and US as key to holding free elections and ending the seven-year civil war that has killed more than 500,000 people.

The UN Syria envoy was authorised to put together such a committee at a Russian-hosted peace conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 30 January but its formation has been hindered by disagreements.

The UN has accused the Syrian government of blocking efforts to draft a new constitution and has objected to a 50-member delegation representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women.

"Slowly, we are reaching a conclusion," said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"We have reached an important step in our work toward the Syrian constitutional committee," he told reporters.

The Assad regime has said the constitution is a "sovereign" matter and that Damascus will not allow any foreign meddling in it.

The opposition has called for a new constitution that would allow for a political transition away Bashar al-Assad's family, who have ruled Syria for decades. 

The regime has shown little interest in making any concessions after winning a series of victories against the rebels.

On Monday, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said that it's premature to talk about the start of the constitutional committee's work "due to the attempt of some western countries to intervene in its work."