Syrian government, opposition and civil society representatives will meet for the first time in nine months Monday to resume negotiations to draft a new constitution for their war-torn country.
The talks broke off because of disagreements over the agenda. Initial plans to meet again in March were set aside because of COVID-19 restrictions. U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said all 45 members of the Constitutional Committee have been tested for the coronavirus and necessary measures enacted to ensure meetings will take place in a safe environment.
Drafting a new constitution and achieving a social contract for Syrians after nearly a decade of conflict will be a momentous task, Pedersen said, adding that the meeting will not solve the Syrian conflict, nor heal the deep divisions within the nation.
“But I have said that if it is handled correctly, it can be a door opener to a broader political process," he said. “And, it can help to build trust and confidence, and it can send a message to the Syrian people, first and foremost, and to the international community that something new has started.”
The war, which began March 2011, reportedly has killed more than half-a-million people and displaced nearly 12 million.
Pedersen said he expects the upcoming U.N.-mediated talks will include many disagreements and frustrations, but he hopes the Committee will be able to keep the process moving forward.
“No one expects that this meeting here next week will produce a miracle or a breakthrough. That is not what this is about," he said. “This is about the beginning, about a long and cumbersome process, where we hopefully can start to see progress, and that this progress can also lead to progress in other areas that we need to implement when it comes to Security Council resolution 2254.”
Security Council resolution 2254 calls for a cease-fire and political settlement in Syria. Pedersen said he has been informed that representatives from Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States will be in Geneva during the talks.
While he will be meeting with them, Pederson noted the work of the Constitutional Committee must take place without foreign interference.