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New UN envoy seeks 'door-opener' for Syria peace

Pedersen hopes he will be able to overcome the obstacles to creating the committee [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2019

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Norwegian Geir Pedersen is the fourth United Nations negotiator working to resolve almost eight years of bloodshed in Syria.
The new UN envoy for Syria said on Friday he was striving to create a committee on drafting a post-war constitution that could hopefully open the way to a peaceful end to the conflict.

Norwegian Geir Pedersen, who last month became the fourth United Nations negotiator working to resolve almost eight years of bloodshed in Syria, said he was continuing his predecessor Staffan de Mistura's work to set up a constitutional committee.

"I see the constitutional committee as the potential door-opener for the political process," Pedersen told reporters in Geneva, pointing to a UN resolution adopted in 2015 calling for the creation of a new Syrian constitution followed by UN-supervised elections.

De Mistura ended his four-year tenure late last year with an abortive push to form a committee tasked with drawing up a post-war constitution after seeing repeated rounds of talks in Geneva come to nothing.

Pedersen, a career diplomat, said he hoped he would be able to overcome the obstacles to creating the committee.

"It is obviously my hope that we will be able to as soon as possible have the constitutional committee meet in Geneva," he said.

He did not say when such a meeting could take place, but the hope was that it would trigger "some serious discussions that could be the door-opener to a political process that will lead to a negotiated outcome of the conflict."

Pedersen acknowledged he was facing a daunting task of rekindling moribund peace talks and succeeding where his three predecessors failed.

Since the start of January, he has been travelling extensively to meet with the Syrian government, the opposition and others to try to move the process forward.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
 
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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