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UN Mediator Deplores Slow Pace of Syrian Constitutional Talks

FILE - U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen attends a press conference at U.N. offices in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2020.
FILE - U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen attends a press conference at U.N. offices in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2020.

Syria’s warring parties are gearing up for another round of U.N.-mediated peace talks next week aimed at drafting a new constitution as a preamble to U.N.-supervised elections in Syria.

This will be the fifth round of U.N.-sponsored constitutional negotiations since the process began in October 2019. U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen is urging the government and opposition delegations to pick up the pace.

He said the co-chairs of the constitutional committee must establish more effective and operational working methods so the meetings can be better organized and more focused. He said it was time for the committee to move from preparing a constitutional reform document into actually drafting one.

“My hope has been that the constitutional committee, you know, if it is handled in a correct manner, that it could start to build trust and that it could be a door-opener for a broader political process," Pedersen said. "But the constitutional committee cannot work in isolation from other factors. We need a political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

Pedersen said he saw some potential for common ground between the rival groups the last time they met in December. He added that he hoped to see more during this upcoming meeting.

Too much suffering

Pedersen also said the political process must be accelerated as the Syrian people have suffered too much, for too long. He said the war and the trauma experienced by millions of Syrians during this decade-long conflict must end.

“Millions inside the country and the millions of refugees outside are now grappling with extreme economic challenges, and on top of it the challenge of COVID-19," he said. "For many Syrians the daily struggle just to survive crowds out most other issues.”

The U.N. mediator said the political process so far was not bringing real changes in Syrians’ lives nor a real vision for the future. He said the Syrians alone would not be able to accomplish this.

Pedersen said this would require greater international cooperation and diplomacy. Resolving this thorny political issue, he said, will require determination and commitment from powerful nations, including Russia, Turkey, Iran and the new U.S. administration.