10/01/2019, 16.02
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First meeting of constitutional committee at the end of month raises hope, UN says

The first summit between government and opposition representatives to draft a new Charter is scheduled for 30 October in Geneva. It will only succeed if it guarantees "progress" towards ending the conflict. The agreement on the committee members was “the first concrete political agreement” between the parties.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The first meeting of Syria’s newly formed constitutional committee, set up to draft Syria's new founding charter and pacify a country ravaged by over eight years of conflict, will be held on 30 October in Geneva, Switzerland.

UN special envoy Geir Pedersen made the announcement yesterday, adding that this “should be a sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people”. The meeting, the UN diplomat noted, will only succeed if it guarantees "progress" to end the war.

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, held on the side-lines of the 74th UN General Assembly, Pedersen state that the committee alone cannot resolve the causes of the conflict.

Hence, all the parties, representatives of the Syrian government backed by Russia and Iran and anti-Assad opposition groups, backed by Turkey and the Gulf States, are expected at the meeting. For the UN official, they must take actions to reduce the violence. De-escalation and a cease-fire at the national level are "essential" steps.

UN secretary general António Guterres also announced the agreement between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition over the members of committee charged with drafting a new constitution.

The agreement about the 150-member committee is significant because it marks "the first concrete political agreement" by the warring parties to implement the 30 June 2012 roadmap to peace adopted by key nations. "This can be a door opener to a wider political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," Pedersen said.

Still, the UN special envoy said that obstacles and difficulties still remain. They include critical issues like the humanitarian crisis in Idlib, the last rebel-held stronghold; terrorist groups that "continue to metastasize touching all Syrian communities"; frequent violent clashes between international players; millions of Syrians displaced; and millions living in poverty.

Although Pedersen remains cautious, he is aware that it is still tough going. "Syria remains in the gravest crisis, with violence and terrorism continuing,” and in a deeply divided society in which “trust and confidence are almost non-existent”.

This is why setting up the constitutional committee must be accompanied by other steps to build trust and confidence, not only among Syrians but also between Syria and the international community.

Lastly, "Syrians, not outsiders, will draft the constitution, and the Syrian people must popularly approve it," Pedersen said. This still needs to be worked out.

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