Fri 13 Dec 2019

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Escalation in Idlib inauspicious sign for work of Constitutional Committee

Meetings of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva, October 31, 2019, (Enab Baladi)

Meetings of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva, October 31, 2019, (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Exclusive | The working conditions of the Constitutional Committee are further complicated by the increase of military escalation in north-western Syria. It is still unclear whether the scheduled meetings will be held on time amid the absence of “confidence-building measures” among the parties involved in the constitutional process, which include the cessation of hostilities and acceleration of the work on the file of detainees and forcibly disappeared people along with other files that the UN Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen consider as signs of “good intention” among all parties.

There have been repeated demands from members of the “civil society” list to stop the shelling that targeted civilians in Idlib Governorate, and holding each party responsible for what is happening to ensure that the Constitutional Committee carry out its work at its best. This was not reiterated, expect by the UN envoy, who expressed his “deep” concern over the violent aerial and missile shelling of the opposition-held governorate for weeks, including the targeting of Qah camp on November 20, which killed 12 civilians, including children.

The second meeting of the mini-committee of the Constitutional Committee is scheduled for November 25, amidst demands from the “civil society” list in the mini-committee to stop the shelling or stop the meetings.

Pressure to stop the shelling

The first demands came from members of the “civil society” list in the mini-committee this week during the first round of meetings in Geneva, Switzerland. 6 out of the 15 members of the list met with UN Envoy, Geir Pedersen, and Russian adviser to the UN Secretary-General, Vitaly Naumkin, ahead of the mini-committee’s meetings of the fourth day.

Well-Informed sources from the Constitutional Committee told Enab Baladi that the members of the list called on the Envoy and the Adviser to press both sides for a ceasefire, noting that continued violence and threats to civilians’ lives would affect the work of the Committee.

On November 22, members of the “civil society” list reiterated their call in a letter signed by 17 out of the 50 members of the list, describing what happened to displaced people in the camp of Qah town, north of Idlib, as a “war crime,” following the death of 12 civilians and injury of 54 others.

“We, the undersigned, condemn the described war crime against unarmed civilians, the targeting of medical facilities and points and the targeting of all civilians on all the Syrian territories,” said the letter, which was monitored by Enab Baladi.

The members of “civil society” list called for “confidence-building measures” among the parties involved in the constitutional process, and “clearly condemning the Syrian regime by the United Nations and hold it, along with other parties, responsible for the protection of civilians.”

They also called on Pedersen to pressure Russia, Turkey and other countries influencing the Syrian affairs and guarantors of the political process to issue a resolution condemning the targeting of the camp and demanding all parties to immediately stop hostilities against civilians in Idlib.

The signatories pointed out in the letter that abandoning the protection of civilians means that “there is no use for the constitutional process or our presence within it, as these acts prove the lack of seriousness of the Syrian regime and its allies regarding the success of the process.”

Over the past 10 days of the Committee’s previous meetings (late October and early November), the Syrian regime and its ally Russia continued their escalation in the region, though they both announced a “truce” on August 31.

Geir Pedersen “concerned”

UN Envoy Geir Pedersen’s response to Syria was prompt. He discussed in his briefing to the Security Council the escalation of the shelling on Idlib and the developments in the East of the Euphrates in north-eastern Syria, expressing his “deep” concern over the “heavy” aerial and missile shelling in the north-western areas for weeks.

The military escalation and shelling by regime forces and its ally Russia have not stopped since the start of the meetings of the General Committee and the mini-committee of the Constitutional Committee, on October, killing dozens of civilians and displacing others in northwest and northeastern Syria.

Pedersen also talked about receiving continuous reports about clashes in the East of the Euphrates despite the concluded understandings there, along with the Israeli raids that targeted locations in Damascus and its countryside. The UN Envoy called on both parties of the conflict to “take advantage of the opportunity” granted by the launch of the “Constitutional Committee” to establish a relationship that would enable them to “cease the violence” and change the conditions on the ground, “which will lead to a comprehensive and decisive solution that serves the interests of all Syrians.”

He considered the release of detainees and forcibly disappeared people of all parties as concrete measures that will improve the lives of Syrians.

Pedersen’s statements did not tackle the guarantees by the parties of the conflict to stop the violence, or the shelling of Idlib Governorate by the regime and Russia. This raises questions about the work of the “Constitutional Committee” and whether it will continue its works or suspend them until the cessation of the escalation.

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