Syria talks on constitutional issues begin

Frederick Owens
May 19, 2017

In the first concrete results from talks this week on ending Syria's conflict, the United Nations said the warring sides had agreed to set up expert committees to discuss "constitutional issues".

The agreement came during the sixth round of UN-backed peace negotiations in Geneva.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura met separately with the delegations on the third day of the Geneva VI peace talks on Syria.

But late yesterday, eight rebel groups suspended their participation in the HNC's delegation, expressing dissatisfaction with the decision-making process at the talks.

The head of the Syrian regime delegation Bashar al-Jaafari also told reporters on Thursday that they have agreed to the experts' meeting but the meeting will remain "unofficial" and does not have power to make decisions.

"The objective of this meeting is to discuss the paper of basic principles, which includes in its articles appropriate points that serve as constitutional principles, and herein we refer to the basic principles paper which consists of 12 points where the elements related to the constitutional process will be dealt with out of these 12 points", al-Jaafari clarified.

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The team would begin work immediately on "specific options for constitutional drafting" in order to "prevent a constitutional or legal vacuum at any point during the political transition process being negotiated", according to a copy of the document seen by AFP.

The main discussions are to focus on a new constitution, governance, elections and the fight against terrorism.

The Syrian diplomat described the UN's earlier plan as "too ambitious".

Tuesday's start of talks in Geneva were overshadowed by USA accusations that the government in Damascus carried out mass killings at a prison near the Syrian capital and then burned the victims' bodies in a crematorium.

Observers said de Mistura would be scrambling to match the Astana track's momentum.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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