US calls for Syrian constitutional committee plans to be scrapped, following regime obstruction

US calls for Syrian constitutional committee plans to be scrapped, following regime obstruction
The US has called for a 17 month UN effort to create a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria to be scrapped, following repeated Assad regime obstruction.
2 min read
28 June, 2019
UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen in Damascus in March [Getty]

The United States on Thursday said it was time to scrap a 17-month effort to form a constitutional committee for Syria and come up with other diplomatic initiatives to bring the country closer to peace.

The UN drive to set up a committee tasked with drafting a post-war constitution has been stalled by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which has objected to the makeup of the body.

Under the UN plan, opposition and civil society representatives would take part in the negotiations.

US acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the Security Council that progress toward forming the new body remained "out of reach" and that the committee was unlikely to ever be formed.

"The time has come for the council to encourage special envoy Pedersen to try other routes to achieving the political solution," Cohen told the council.

The UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, told the council that he hoped to finalize details in the near future on the committee, which was first agreed during a conference in Russia in January 2018.

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

Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Moscow expected a "breakthrough" soon in the launch of the committee following recent talks between Russian and Syrian officials.

France told Pedersen that he should notify the council when all efforts to set up the committee have been exhausted.

The Security Council has overseen a string of stalled diplomatic initiatives to end the war in Syria, now in its ninth year. More than 500,000 people have been killed and half of the country's population displaced in the fighting, mostly due to regime bombardment of civilian areas.

The Syrian conflict began after brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the Assad regime in 2011.

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, the last area to be held by the opposition.

More than 400 have been killed and over 300,000 displaced as a result of a regime offensive against Idlib, which began last April.