Syrian Constitutional Committee’s fate remains uncertain, Riyadh is unenthusiastic and regime is obstructive

UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, during a Security Council session (UN)

UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, during a Security Council session (UN)


Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud

More than two weeks have passed since the scheduled date for the ninth round of the Syrian Constitutional Committee’s sessions of April 22-26, which went by calmly, only marred by a statement from the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, expressing his disappointment—without deviating from the usual context regarding the stalled political track meetings for about two years, due to Moscow’s intransigence and its refusal to continue meetings in Geneva (Switzerland), aligning with the Syrian regime’s stance.

During a briefing before the United Nations Security Council, on April 25, Pedersen stated that the “shadow of the bleak regional conflict” once again loomed over Syria, indicating that under the current circumstances, there are no indications of the resumption of the Constitutional Committee’s work due to issues unrelated to Syria.

He added that the situation in Syria motivates moving forward in creating a “safe, calm, and neutral environment” to initiate a political process aimed at facilitating a safe, dignified, and voluntary return for Syrians.

He noted the significant efforts he and others have made to address these conditions through concrete measures from both sides “have not yet resulted in the required changes.” Instead, more Syrians are looking to leave Syria and also neighboring countries, risking their lives on dangerous routes.

The Special Envoy for Syria considered that a mixture of de-escalation, containment, and humanitarian aid achieved through partial arrangements contributes to improving the situation, but they are unlikely to fully stabilize Syria as they do not achieve this anywhere else in the region.

He said Syrians need to see a political path to emerge from the “conflict,” in alignment with the UN Security Council resolution “2254,” and the “renewal of the Constitutional Committee” might be part of this path, but despite intense efforts, there are no signs of resuming the committee’s meetings due to “issues unrelated to Syria.”

He further stated, “I am open to any alternative venue to Geneva that enjoys the consensus of the Syrian parties and the host state, and I continue my participation in this regard. Meanwhile, I continue to call for the resumption of sessions in Geneva as a transitional option, and for the parties to prepare substantively, including constitutional proposals.”

Pedersen’s disappointment and the fact that the ninth round remains suspended was not the surprising event, as what preceded it had paved the way for this outcome and brought it closer to expectations. After a clear escalation in statements and an intensive wave of meetings and political movements in this context began since the end of February, talks about the ninth round has been absent since the last third of April, after Pedersen, on February 27, announced that he would send invitations for a ninth round at the end of April, expressing hope that the Syrian parties would respond positively, also appealing to the principal international parties to support the United Nations’ efforts as a facilitator and refrain from interfering in the venue of the Syrians’ meetings.

Towards Riyadh?

On March 17, Pedersen visited the Syrian capital, Damascus, and met with the Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, and during his meetings there, proposed the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as an alternative venue for holding these meetings, which seemed plausible if both parties and the potential host state agree.

He also discussed the need to resume the work of the Constitutional Committee, as the current conditions in Syria are linked to the political process, stating, “We all know that to move away from the security and economic challenge, we need to make progress on the political front, and I fear that I have nothing new to report in this regard.”

From its side, the regime did not offer explicit approval of the idea and proposal that came after Mekdad’s visit to Riyadh on March 14, but the Syrian opposition welcomed the position, as reported by Enab Baladi about the Syrian Negotiations Commission, and it was followed by a statement from the head of the commission, Badr Jamous, saying that he informed “the brothers in Saudi Arabia” about the Negotiations commission’s desire to have the meetings in Riyadh, and this occurred at the beginning of the negotiations when there was a refusal to return to Geneva.

Pedersen also made a phone call to the Saudi Foreign Minister on March 25, during which they discussed the latest developments related to the situation in Syria on various levels, and the efforts being made regarding solving the Syrian crisis, as stated by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Uncertain fate, Riyadh ruled out

The head of the opposition delegation participating in the Astana talks, Dr. Ahmad Touma, clarified to Enab Baladi that the fate of the Constitutional Committee is ambiguous and unknown, and there seems to be no possibility of resuming it soon.

He stated, it was never true the rumors that Riyadh hosting the committee was a serious matter, and assessments suggest that Riyadh is not enthusiastic due to a lack of belief in achieving results, nor does the Syrian regime desire it.

Regarding the implications of this ongoing obstruction on the Syrian dossier, Touma explained that the opposition does not originally have high hopes for these UN proposals, and there is an old and new belief that the absence of a fundamental solution to the Syrian file makes any other proposals a mere waste of time and effort, with an important positive aspect of grasping the truth and trying to rely on oneself.

The process is fully disabled

Dima Moussa, vice president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (Syrian National Coalition) and a member of the mini-group in the Constitutional Committee representing the opposition, told Enab Baladi that the entire political process, including the constitutional process, has been stalled for years due to the absence of a genuine negotiating partner, as the regime, since the beginning of the political process in Geneva ten years ago, has been evading accountability and using all available means to hinder any progress towards a political solution and to save Syria and the Syrian people from disaster.

Moussa added that the regime is doing everything possible to deepen the crisis by creating more obstacles that help its policy of obstruction, noting that the solution in Syria can only be political through the full implementation of resolution “2254”.

She also emphasized the need to continue pressing and working with regional and international authorities to adhere to the political process and support the Syrian people to push towards resuming the political process and negotiating all baskets, including the constitutional process.


“We are ready to return to the negotiating table on the constitution through the resumption of the work of the Constitutional Committee, in addition to other parts of the political process, especially the governance basket.”

Dima Moussa, Vice President of the Syrian National Coalition


As for the repercussions caused by the disruption of the political path, Moussa said that the most catastrophic reflection is the continued deterioration of the conditions of the Syrian people, especially in areas under regime control, at all levels with the impact on humanitarian files, most notably the file of detainees and refugees, specifically refugees from neighboring countries, holding the regime responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe experienced by the Syrians, from one side, and the international parties that support through their practices and policies its ability to continue the obstruction, from the other side.

Regional impacts

The UN special envoy for Syria said during his briefing that he is not only worried about regional impacts and risks arising from misjudgment and escalation, but he is “deeply concerned” about the “conflict” in Syria itself, which continues to corrupt the lives of the Syrian people whose suffering has been prolonged, explaining that any temptation to ignore or merely contain the “Syrian conflict” itself would be a mistake, considering what is happening in Syria as “not a frozen conflict,” and its effects can only be felt in Syria itself.

Pedersen noted that there are no signs of calm in any areas of Syria, as violence is still escalating, and hostilities are still sharply fueled, any of which could be tantamount to igniting a new major fire, expressing his concern about this “dangerous and escalating spiral” of violence, pointing out that he has long warned that many treat Syria as a “free-for-all to settle scores”.

Regional circumstances and emerging political events weigh heavily on the preparedness of political tracks, plans, and roadmaps, freezing some of them, undermining others, and possibly leaving some without a definite fate, before returning to calmness and normal political climate, perhaps the Israeli bombardment that targeted the building of the Israeli consulate in Damascus at the beginning of April, is one of these affecting circumstances.

On April 1, an Israeli raid targeted the building of the Iranian consulate adjoining the Iranian embassy in Damascus, resulting in the deaths of two leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and five advisor officers in the IRGC and six Syrians, due to the complete destruction of the building.

Contacts, meetings, visits, statements, condemnations, threats, and responses to threats, attempts at calming, and speculations about the nature of possible retaliation, all occupied the public opinion, press, and politicians at regional and international levels, culminating in the Iranian response on April 13.

Things did not stop there, as the Israeli bombardment of locations in Syria renewed, and the military tensions and shelling in the northern areas also continued, and the peaceful popular movement demanding political change continued in As-Suwayda without anyone hearing the call, at the level of the Syrian regime itself, or the international community busy with the Israeli war on Gaza, and fears of Russian escalation in Ukraine exploiting the current conditions, and Kyiv’s need for more advanced heavy weapons from its European and American allies, and the Constitutional Committee stalled since the eighth round on February 22, 2022.

All this leaves the Syrian file and its political track shelved in front of more urgent priorities at the international level and in the eyes of regional and international active forces, at a time when some countries are grumbling and fidgeting with the stay of refugees in their “hospitality”, considering “Syria safe”.

The obstacles are clear

In an interview with Al-Arabiya channel, on May 8, regarding the work of the Constitutional Committee, Pedersen indicated that his efforts to deal with Geneva as a temporary platform until an alternative is agreed upon were met with objections from the Syrian regime, pointing out that the obstacles are clear, as the regime’s government does not want to come to Geneva due to Moscow’s objection.

He noted that no one believed that the Constitutional Committee in itself would solve the “Syrian crisis”, but it could open the door to important matters that were the subject of discussion, and this work has stopped over the last two years, for issues not related to Syria, but because the Russians do not want the Syrians to meet in Geneva, as they are displeased with Switzerland’s stance on Ukraine.

According to Pedersen, the conflicting parties in Syria demand the implementation of the international resolution, but each of them draws its own understanding of it, which translates into disrupting the political process confined in recent years to the Constitutional Committee.



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