Egypt participates in Ukraine International Travel, Tourism Exhibition    139 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza    Palestinian under attack in 73rd anniversary of Nakba Day    Egypt's Health Ministry launches awareness campaigns against COVID-19    Egypt partakes in drafting OECD Recommendations on AI    Palestine's Telecom Ministry names top social media supportive hashtags for maximum engagement    Egypt fines mobile operators EGP 20m for number portability violations    Sudan pledges to investigate killing of 2 protestors during peaceful sit-in    Grand Egyptian Museum finishes installing Tutankhamun's 3rd shrine    Egypt discovers several ancient tombs in Sohag's Al-Hamdiya necropolis    Egypt scales up readiness of hospitals nationwide for Eid Al-Fitr holidays    Egyptian hospitals in Sinai on alert amid Israeli aggression on Gaza    Egypt announces Thursday 1st day of Eid Al-Fitr    Nuweiba: Egypt's paradise of serenity    Egypt's current account deficit jumps to $7.6 bln in 1H of FY2020/21: CBE    Egypt's trade deficit down 1.2% to $3.34bn in February 2021: CAPMAS    Global economic recovery to improve debt service coverage ratios: Moody's    Egypt's Parliament discusses abolishing imprisonment for female debtors    India signs an agreement to buy 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Eva Pharma    Egypt will locally manufacture first 2m Sinovac vaccine doses by June-end    2021 South East European Film Festival celebrates cinematic diversity of 18 countries    Turkey seeks to restore 'historic unity' with Egyptian people: Erdogan    Elneny's Arsenal targets 'remontada' in Europa League semi-finals    Zamalek eye return to victories at expense of Smouha in Egyptian Premier League    Al Ahly face injuries as they take on Al Ittihad Alexandria    Egypt buys 30 Rafale fighter jets from France    Direct flights between Russia and Egypt will resume in June, Ambassador    Egypt's Ahly is establishing a new stadium, expected to be 'sports complex'    Blinken presses Ethiopia's Abiy to ensure full withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray    Forces opposed to Somali president control parts of Mogadishu    Nine people executed in Egypt over Kerdasa police killings in 2013    UEFA investigating Ibrahimovic's alleged ties to betting company    61 doctors died from coronavirus since start of April: Egypt's medical syndicate    Egypt targets 5.6% inflation rate in FY2020/21, 6% in FY2021/22    Egypt allocates EGP 132 bln to modernise railway system: Transport minister    Real Madrid not thinking about any Super League sanctions: Zidane    Total declares force majeure on Mozambique LNG after attacks    All the winners at the 93rd Academy Awards    Egypt's Ahly granted approval to build new stadium on Cairo outskirts    Aswan Int'l Women's Film Festival dedicates 5th edition to Kawthar Heikal    BREAKING: Egypt's information minister Osama Heikal resigns amid parliamentary criticism    'War was not Egypt's aim, but peace was the ultimate goal,' Sisi says on Sinai Liberation Day anniversary    Factbox: Key nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    Veteran Egyptian journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed passes away at 86    Allianz Egypt partners with IGNITE to equip brand ambassadors for 2021 Olympics    Hassan Allam consortium wins contract to manage, operate Grand Egyptian Museum    Seasoned Egyptian screenwriter Wahid Hamed dies at 76    







Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.





Syrian committee stumbles
Published in Ahram Online on 03 - 12 - 2019

The second round of Syria's Constitutional Committee tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country ended after one week without a meeting between the 45 delegates representing the regime led by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, the opposition and various NGOs.
There was no confirmation about scheduling a third round, raising fears that the UN-sponsored process will collapse even though many still believe that the committee could spell the start of the long-anticipated political solution to the crisis in Syria.
The negotiators did not meet last week, and the government and opposition delegations could not agree on an agenda for talks. UN Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen was unsuccessful in his efforts at mediation.
The talks aim to accelerate what the UN believes will still be a long road to a political rapprochement in Syria followed by new elections. But observers doubt that Al-Assad will be willing to compromise, especially after regime forces, backed by Russia and Iran, have succeeded in recovering large swaths of territory during strikes against opposition forces and militants.
The regime delegation left the UN headquarters in Geneva where the talks have been taking place followed by other delegates without the committee reaching a consensus, and the next round of talks slated for 16 December was not confirmed. Mediation efforts will continue between the parties in an attempt to reach consensus.
The discussions thus far have been drowned in minutia, with the opposition making suggestions that have been rejected out of hand by the regime and the regime presenting a set of principles it wants the opposition to agree to before meetings begin. Both sides have been at odds with the NGO delegates.
The opposition delegates submitted five suggestions regarding a new constitution, while the regime focused on two. The regime delegates then proposed what it called “national fundamentals” that the opposition and NGOs must endorse before discussion on a new constitution can continue.
These included “condemning the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, upholding the unity of Syrian territory and sovereignty, rejecting the participation of separatists, and rejecting terrorism.” The opposition said that any discussion of such “national fundamentals” would have to be within a constitutional context and not a political one.
Ahmed Al-Kozbari, regime co-chairman of the committee, said a 45-strong smaller working group “cannot meet during the second round of talks in Geneva because the delegation of the Turkish regime [by which he meant the opposition] has refused to discuss an agenda and the national fundamentals.”
“The national delegation [meaning the regime] made a suggestion for a meeting, but the response came through the media not via official channels, which is a violation of the code of conduct of the meetings and the latest in a series of dozens of such violations.”
Hadi Al-Bahra, co-chairman for the opposition, said he was encouraged by the second round even though the participants did not meet because it had taught the delegates the “lesson to adhere to procedural rules and set an agenda before the next round.”
Al-Bahra said the delegates faced a critical task that was the key to the political process and to implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254 under which the Constitutional Committee was formed. He stated that all present were determined to end the suffering of the Syrian people, to lift the sanctions, to end the barrel bomb attacks and strikes, to halt the bloodshed and reach a political solution that leads to implementing international resolutions.
The regime delegation was adamant in its position, but before leaving Geneva it said it was still willing to make an effort in future rounds to decide on an agenda for the meetings to come. It said that its “national fundamentals” expressed “what the Syrian people want, and they must be discussed before moving onto other topics.”
The opposition said that even if the efforts fail, it was determined to continue working and stressed the importance of another round of talks based on a clear agenda that expressly states the committee's mandate and its task to draft a new constitution for Syria.
Moscow criticised the UN envoy as a result of the failure of the committee meeting, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that “the risk of foreign intervention and forcing solutions on the Syrian people from the outside is present [at the Geneva meetings]. Our colleagues in the UN, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his special envoy to Syria, must look into stopping these attempts.”
“Such interference must be avoided by [Pedersen's] office in particular,” he said, adding that there “must be a balance in his office to ensure fair geographical representation, as stipulated by the UN Charter.”
After the Geneva talks failed, some members of the committee and Pedersen received an invitation from Kazakhstan, at a request from Moscow, to participate in the Astana Talks in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan.
Observers believe that Russia wants to continue the Geneva discussions in Astana, and the Russian news agency TASS published a report on the outcome of round two of the committee meetings that noted that the opposition and regime delegations had disagreed on the agenda.
It said the regime had insisted on “national fundamentals” that included a declaration to combat terrorism and condemned the occupation by foreign troops of Syrian territory. However, the report neglected to mention that these “fundamentals” are political issues and have nothing to do with the committee's mandate.
Moscow believes a solution to the deadlock could be found during the talks in Nur-Sultan on 10-11 December, part of the Astana Process on Syria sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Any glimmer of hope that constitutional reform is on the way was extinguished after the second round of talks in Geneva failed, and it now appears that the procrastination by Damascus has succeeded. The regime's official rhetoric describes its representatives to the committee as “the delegation supported by the government,” which means any deal with the opposition has no necessary effects and the meetings are merely “brainstorming” in character.
The regime views its delegation as “the patriotic delegation,” which means the other delegations are not. It has also described the members of the opposition Higher Negotiations Commission as “the delegation representing the Turkish regime.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said he hoped the next round of the Astana Talks would be attended by the government and opposition delegations to the Constitutional Committee. “The government and opposition delegations are participating, and we hope they will continue to participate in the Astana Process,” he said.
Pedersen resisted attempts by Russia, Turkey and Iran, together with Damascus, to divert the reform track from UN-sponsorship at Geneva to Astana.
Lavrov, his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif were in Geneva for the launch of the Constitutional Committee in late October. Pedersen then said that constitutional reform in Syria must be “a process led and owned by Syrians.”
Subsequent obstructions of the work of the committee in Geneva could be part of an attempt to transfer the political process to the three guarantors and avoid a complete overhaul of the Syrian Constitution.
But the US has not yet made its opinions known, and a word from Washington could bring the delegations back to the Geneva process and the pre-established track without any modifications.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


Clic here to read the story from its source.