Fri 13 Dec 2019

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Semantic gymnastics: What does the regime call its delegation to Geneva?

UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, in a meeting with Constitutional Committee co-chairman, Hadi al-Bahra, representative of the Syrian opposition, and Constitutional Committee co-chairman, Ahmad Kuzbari, representative of the Syrian regime in Geneva, Switzerland (Reuters)

UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, in a meeting with Constitutional Committee co-chairman, Hadi al-Bahra, representative of the Syrian opposition, and Constitutional Committee co-chairman, Ahmad Kuzbari, representative of the Syrian regime in Geneva, Switzerland (Reuters)

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The Syrian regime has changed the label of its delegation to Geneva for the Syrian Constitutional Committee (SCC) from the “delegation of the Syrian government” to the “national delegation”. This is the fourth time since the start of the committee’s work on 30 October that the regime has changed the label of its delegation.

Early on the Syrian regime used to call its delegation, in official media outlets, the “Syrian government delegation”. Bashar al-Assad, the President of the Syrian regime, later described it as “the delegation representing the Syrian government’s view” in an TV interview on 31 October.

Four labels

The state-run news agency (SANA) published a news item on its official website on 25 November, in which the name of the delegation to Geneva was changed from the “Syrian government-supported delegation” (the third name) to the “national delegation” (the fourth name).

SANA described the delegation of the Syrian regime as “the Syrian government-supported delegation” in a report published on 8 November about the co-chair of the SCC, Ahmad Kuzbari.

The Syrian government media outlets also called the opposition delegation a new name, the “Turkish-backed delegation”.

As monitored by Enab Baladi, the Syrian regime earlier called the delegation of the Syrian opposition members of the committee “the counter party.”

Moreover, official Syrian media outlets have avoided showing pictures of the opposition delegation members during their news coverage of the SCC meetings since it began on 30 October.

In fact, using different labels by the Syrian regime to describe the SCC delegations, reflects al-Assad’s view of the role of the SCC. It implies that the Syrian regime is not serious about the meetings of the SCC and that these meetings have no nothing to do with holding presidential elections. The meetings, according to al-Assad, are only intended to draft a new constitution for the country.

The idea for the SCC was first broached at the Russian-sponsored peace conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in November 2018. Contrary to al-Assad’s view, the Sochi agreement stated in its final statement that “it was agreed to form a constitutional committee made of the delegation of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic and a broadly-represented opposition delegation with the goal of formulating a constitutional reform, which would contribute to a UN-sponsored political settlement in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254.”

From Assad’s point of view, it does not mean that the government is negotiating as, legally, it does not participate in the SCC, and does not afford recognition to either party.

Al-Assad summarized the purpose of this repudiation and semantic exercises by saying that what matters is the outcomes of the SCC’s meetings. Al-Assad stressed that should the outcome should be compatible with the national interest, even if it was a new constitution, he will approve it. However, if the outcome of the SCC, according to al-Assad, includes an amendment even for only one article of the Syrian Constitution, and this article will threaten the national interest, he will stand against it and will not implement it.

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