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Syrian Constitutional Talks Resume With Little Prospect of Breakthrough

FILE - U.N. special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen attends a press conference prior to the resumumption of U.N.-backed talks on a new constitution for Syria at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2020.

U.N.-mediated talks on drafting a new constitution for Syria get under way Monday with little prospect of the country’s warring parties arriving at an agreement anytime soon.

This coming week, government and opposition delegates of the Syrian constitutional committee will meet to thrash out elements of a political document that could pave the way toward national elections in this war-torn country.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said this process is moving ahead much more slowly than he hoped for because of mutual distrust between the two opposing parties. He said this is not surprising after 10 years of brutal conflict.

“We know that we have not lived up to the expectations of the Syrian people in making the progress that is necessary to end the suffering for the Syrian people. So, it is my hope that with the relative calm that we are seeing in Syria now, despite all the daily violations, that it should be possible to focus more heavily on the political process and all the elements of Security Council Resolution 2254,” he said.

One of the elements in that resolution calls for U.N. supervised elections to be held after the adoption of a constitution. Syria’s civil war has killed an estimated 400,000 people and caused 5.6 million to flee as refugees. Another 6.2 million are internally displaced.

Pedersen said building trust among the government and opposition negotiators is crucial. Doing so, he said, could open the door to a broader political process and permit discussions to move forward on several important issues.

“One of the obvious issues that we are hoping to make progress on is the file of abductees, detainees and missing persons. And my hope is that if we can continue to build trust within the constitutional committee, that that could have a positive impact also on the other issues and that then could play positively back on the work that we are doing in the constitutional committee,” said Pedersen.

To a large extent, Pedersen notes that progress depends on the Syrians themselves but also on having international support for the unfolding political process.