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The New Arab Staff

Fifth round of Syrian constitutional talks end without 'true engagement' from regime

The agenda of this round of talks was to discuss basic principles. [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2021

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The fifth round of Syrian Constitutional Committee meetings ends on Friday, as complaints about the regime's attitude persist.
The fifth round of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva concluded on Friday with little progress, as the guarantor countries to the Astana track announced that they will hold further talks in February.

This most recent round has been dogged by complaints from the opposition, that the Syrian regime is refusing to engage in the committees’ work and instead is choosing to argue over technical matters, while rejecting any opposition suggestions.

The main agenda of this round of talks was to discuss "basic principles of the constitution".

"The Syrian regime still refuses to truly engage in the work of the committee concerned with discussing constitutional principles, and is trying to persist with quarrels and disputes, away from the technical work of drafting the constitution," Tareq Al-Kurdi, Constitutional Committee member from the opposition's delegation, said.

Al-Kurdi complained that government delegation refused to even discuss the 10 constitutional articles that were presented by the opposition delegation. This is despite the fact that this fifth round of talks were supposed to focus on the adoption of basic constitutional principles. 

"The Syrian regime is still stalling the completion of the task of preparing and drafting constitutional reform for Syria," said Al-Kurdi.

"We expect the Syrian regime to assume its national responsibility, prove good intentions, and join the Constitutional Committee, as it is the gateway to the political solution in Syria," he added.

On Tuesday, the co-chair of the Constitutional Committee, Hadi Al-Bahra, warned that if concrete results were not achieved, then the process would falter. 

The 150-strong Constitutional Committee was formed with delegations from the Syrian government, the opposition and civil society representatives, who are tasked with creating a new constitution for war-torn Syria. It is overseen by the United Nations, under the auspices of special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen. 

While many blamed the Syrian government for their intransigence, opposition member Munther Esper, suggested that the committees failure pointed to a much larger disagreement between the foreign countries that have a stake in Syria. 

"The Constitutional Committee’s stumbling is an indication of the lack of agreement among the US, NATO and Astana guarantors about Syria, the freedom of military armament of Turkey, the Iranian nuclear issue, and the Russian presence in the Mediterranean," said Esper.

Read more: Syria Insight: What to expect under the Biden administration

With talks making little progress over the week, the guarantors of the Astana track, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, have announced their intention to hold talks in mid-February. 

The three countries released a statement, following consultations on the sidelines of the Constitutional Committee, saying that the fifteenth round of Astana-track talks would take place in the Russian city of Sochi, on 16-17 February.

In their joint statement, the three countries stressed that the "Constitutional Committee must be carried out on the basis of understanding and constructive participation, without external interference, and without imposing deadlines from outside".

Al-Kurdi singled out Russia as an obstacle to the talks in Geneva.

"We are waiting for the United Nations and the supporting countries, most notably Russia, to assume its responsibility to pressure the Syrian regime, to engage in the constitutional process, with the aim of alleviating the suffering of our people."

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