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After Idlib’s cease-fire agreement…new talks revitalize Syrian Constitutional Committee’s agenda

UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen and the two Joint Heads (Ahmad al-Kuzbari, from the regime delegation and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition delegation, (Reuters)

UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen and the two Joint Heads (Ahmad al-Kuzbari, from the regime delegation and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition delegation, (Reuters)

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Enab Baladi – Murad Abdul Jalil

The special envoy of the United Nations’ (UN) secretary-general for Syria, Geir Pedersen, has succeeded in revitalizing the agenda of the Syrian Constitutional Committee (SCC) after nearly five months of the failure of the second round of talks held in the Swiss capital, Geneva.

Back then, the SCC meetings failed to get agenda due to the absence of seriousness, especially on the part of the Syrian regime’s delegation, which kept questioning the “patriotism” of the opposition delegation by bringing to the negotiation table what the regime called as “the national pillars.”

Nevertheless, after several meetings and discussions, along with pressures exerted on the Syrian regime, Pedersen succeeded last week in reaching an agreement of a clear agenda, in an attempt to benefit from Idlib’s cease-fire due to an agreement between Russia and Turkey on 5 of last March.

New different agenda

On 30 March, during a teleconference session by members of the Security Council about Syria, Pedersen declared that the Syrian regime and opposition reached an agreement about the SCC’s agenda.

He said, ” after lengthy discussions and with my auspices, the two Joint Heads (Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition delegation, and Ahmad al-Kuzbari, from the regime delegation) agreed on the newly proposed agenda.”

Pedersen said the agenda is going to be”based on the SCC mandate, benchmarks, the SCC’s rules of procedure, and discussion of national foundations and principles.”

He described the reached agreement as a “good step,” stressing on the discussions with the involved parties on the possibility of starting the preparations for future rounds of the committee’s talks until a new meeting is possible.

Pedersen’s proposed agenda provoked a state of commotion among the opposition amid talks that it is yielding to regime’s earlier suggested plan, which was rejected by the opposition in the previous round.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, al-Bahra said, “there is a substantial difference between the proposals of the committee members of regime’s candidates during the second round and after the proposals were rejected by the representatives of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC)  for compelling reasons (the opposition delegation)and the recent proposal agreed upon with the supervision of the UN Special Envoy.”

Al-Bahra added that the joint head of the Syrian regime’s delegation, al-Kuzbari, suggested before the discussion of “the national pillars” outside the committee’s mandate and competence, which was irrelevant to the constitutional context.

Meanwhile, the current agenda is based on discussing “the national bases and principles, according to the committee’s mandate, benchmarks and key elements of the SCC’s internal regulations.”

Al-Bahra elaborated, “ in an attempt to be more transparent, this proposal was one of the five proposals we offered in the second round of the past talks in Geneva, which the regime’s delegation rejected.” 

The Syrian regime’s delegation to the SCC presented in the last round a proposal under the title “national pillars that concern the Syrian people,” which included the condemnation of foreign intervention in north-eastern Syria, mainly the Turkish one, as well as combating terrorism, lifting the economic siege on Syria, and considering anyone who bears arms in the face of the “State” as a terrorist.

However, the opposition delegation rejected the proposal and considered it irrelevant to the context of the SCC’s agenda and an attempt to obstruct its work.

The opposition delegation then submitted five new proposals in order to keep up with the regime in its proposals and push it to the table of dialogue.

Regarding the possibility of the Syrian regime hindering the proposals again, al-Bahra declared that the next round has a clear agenda, unlike the previous one, and each side will present its view within the constitutional committee’s missions.

These developments come in conjunction with the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), along with halting diplomatic meetings and the air traffic. The suspension of life aspects prompted the possibility of holding SCC’s next round of talks remotely by using a video-conferencing, which al-Bahra confirmed by mentioning a suggested study of this matter.

It is worth mentioning that the Syrian regime and its allies found in the coronavirus pandemic an opportunity to call on the UN to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Syria.

The member of Syria’s mini constitutional committee for civil society, Mais Kreidi, called for raising a memorandum to the UN demanding lifting sanctions on the regime, to guarantee the lives of civilians during the spread of the virus.

While expectations of the procrastination of SCC’s agenda continue to prevail, as expressed by the opposition in its repeated media statements, Syrians keep waiting with hope for a different round of talks where the role of the guarantor countries and their pressures might help to advance the political process in Syria.

 

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