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Syrian Constitutional Talks Fail to Reach Consensus

FILE - United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen gestures in Damascus, Syria, Jan. 15, 2019.

U.N.-mediated talks aimed at drafting a new constitution for Syria’s war-strapped government have failed to reach a consensus on how to move forward with the political process.

After a nine-month hiatus, the U.N. mediator resumed the delayed negotiations earlier this week with high hopes that the logjam over the critical constitutional drafting process may have been broken.

Indeed, U.N. special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen says he had business-like and frank discussions with the co-chairs of the Syrian government and opposition delegations on constitutional draft texts. They included issues of sovereignty, territorial integrity, the armed forces, terrorism, and the rule of law.

He acknowledges there were ups and downs during the first four days. He says the delegations agreed that on Friday, the last day of talks, they would try to reach a provisional agreement on bringing forward the principles they had discussed. But he says it “was a big disappointment.”

Co-chair of the Syrian Government Constitutional Committee Ahmad Kuzbari says his delegation came to the talks prepared to negotiate in good faith.

“We have listened to all proposals made by some of the participants, which unfortunately, some of which were far from reality and even reflected malign thought and aggressive agendas,” Kuzbari noted.

Not to be outdone in the blame game, co-chair of the opposition delegation Hadi Albahra says government representatives gave short shrift to various proposals made by his group to resolve the issue. Speaking through an interpreter, he said that “unfortunately, the party representing the government of the regime did not submit any text for reaching consensus … even though, as I told you, we had put in our papers some proposals that were included in their paper, in their text, and we thought we could build on that.”

In the end, U.N. mediator Pedersen says the parties were unable to find any commonalities in their positions to move the process forward. He notes the parties have not agreed on the date for another round of talks.