UN-Sponsored Syrian Constitutional Talks Remain Frozen

A weeklong effort to move forward on drafting a new constitution for battle-scarred Syria has ended with no progress and with fading hopes of breaking the deadlock.

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen dropped his diplomatic guard and said he’d sent a blunt statement to the 45-member Syrian drafting body spelling out his dissatisfaction with the way the constitutional talks were proceeding.

“I told the 45 members of the drafting body that we cannot continue like this, that the week has been a disappointment,” he said. “I set out a few things I thought we should be able to achieve before we started this meeting, and I am afraid we did not manage to achieve these things.”

Pedersen said the co-chair of the opposition Syrian National Committee had submitted a set of constitutional proposals at the start of the talks, which the government delegation found unacceptable.

The U.N. mediator said he then presented several of his own proposals to the two Syrian delegations to try to get the crucial negotiations moving. While the opposition SNC delegation accepted the proposals, he said, the government side rejected them.

‘Not a debating committee’

Pedersen said he explained to the delegations that nothing would be accomplished unless they learned how to work better together.

“So, you know, this is not a debating committee,” he said. “You know, you can continue debating forever. We need to move this in a manner where the members themselves start to identify areas where they agree or disagree and then move into the drafting phase, and this is what is missing for the time being.”

The talks are aimed at drafting a new constitution as a preamble to U.N. Syrian elections. They are seen as a crucial element in achieving a negotiated peace to end more than a decade of brutal warfare.

The weeklong meeting ended without setting a date for the next round of talks. It also ended with mutual recriminations, with the warring sides blaming each other for failure to move ahead.

U.N. envoy Pedersen indicated he was on a salvage mission. He said he hoped to go to Damascus soon. He said he also was planning to meet with powerful foreign backers of the negotiations, including the Russians, Turks and Iranians, and he hoped to meet with members of the new U.S. administration as well.


Source: Voice of America

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