Weeklong negotiations in Geneva aimed at drafting a new constitution for Syria have ended with an agreement to meet for further talks at an as yet unspecified date.
There was no breakthrough in the complex process of drafting a constitution, a key prelude to forming a post-conflict government in Syria. However, there also was no rancorous breakup.
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen describes the talks in Geneva as challenging. But he says that did not deter the 45-member Constitutional Committee from engaging in substantive negotiations. As the U.N. mediator and go-between among the members of the committee, he says he found it fascinating to listen to their discussions.
“Obviously, there are still very strong disagreements, and my Syrian friends are, of course, never afraid of expressing those disagreements,” Pedersen said. “But I was also extremely pleased to hear the two co-chairs saying very clearly that they thought also there were quite a few areas of commonalities.”
The weeklong meeting got off to a rocky start. One day after it began, it was temporarily suspended because four members of the committee had tested positive for COVID-19. The talks resumed after a two-day break when new tests apparently indicated the earlier tests were false positives, although those four members attended the talks virtually after that.
Though the week was shorter than anticipated, Pedersen says the delegates were able to build a bit of confidence and trust in each other.
“I believe the tone was respectful,” he said. “I also got a clear message both from the co-chairs and from the members that they are keen to meet again, and we will build obviously on what we have discussed so far, and this in my opinion is encouraging.”
The U.N. mediator says he will be meeting with the two chairs to decide on the agenda for the next round of talks. He says a date for the next meeting will be set once an agreement on the agenda has been reached.