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UN Invites Syrian Rivals To May 28 Constitution Talks

The United Nations special envoy for Syria stated on Tuesday that he has sent invitations to the Syrian government and opposition for an eighth round of talks, which will begin in late May and attempt to revise the country’s constitution.

According to Geir Pedersen, an agreement on a rewritten constitution might help bring the 11-year battle to a political conclusion.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee’s seventh session finished on March 25, he stated, with delegations providing “at least some revisions to some of the texts presented.”

Pedersen stated that deputy special envoy Khawla Matar followed up with visits to Damascus and Istanbul to continue negotiations with the committee’s co-chairs, and that he had sent out invitations for the eighth session, which will take place in Geneva from May 28 to June 3.

The drafting process will only forward if the committee’s work is “governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement aimed at reaching general agreement of its members,” he said.

The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey, and all five permanent Security Council members agreed a road plan to peace in Syria in 2012. It calls for the development of a new constitution. It culminates in UN-supervised elections in which all Syrians, even those in exile, are eligible to vote. The road map was unanimously accepted by the Security Council in December 2015.

A deal was achieved in January 2018 at a Syrian peace conference hosted by Russia to form a 150-member committee to design a new constitution. The actual drafting would be done by a smaller, 45-member council that included 15 members from the administration, opposition, and civil society. The committee was not created until September 2019, and no work has been made since then.

READ MORE: Lebanon Fears Negative Impact Of Hezbollah Victory In Elections

“Syria is a hot conflict, not a frozen one,” Pedersen said in a video briefing to the council.

According to him, airstrikes have escalated in the northwest, clashes surrounding Afrin and in the northeast have intensified, and there have been continuing exchanges of rocket fire and shelling across all front lines, as well as improvised explosive devices, vehicle bombs, and other security events.

Pedersen encouraged the council to concentrate its efforts on Syria.

“The current strategic stalemate on the ground and Syria’s absence from the headlines should not mislead anyone into thinking that the conflict needs less attention or fewer resources, or that a political settlement is not urgent,” he said. “Indeed, a conflict of this scale requires a comprehensive solution” in line with the 2012 road map.

While the war in Ukraine is swiftly catching up, Pedersen said “Syria remains the biggest displacement crisis in the world” with 6.8 million refugees and 6.2 million people displaced in the country — “half the pre-war population.”

As the world’s attention shifts to other wars, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya cautioned that “Syria is on the verge of becoming yet another forgotten crisis.”

“Yet millions of Syrians struggle each month to survive, to feed their families and to provide a future for their children,” she said. “For many, their situation has never been more dire since violence erupted in 2011.”

Msuya said “a staggering 4.1 million people” in rebel-held northwest Syria need humanitarian aid, with almost a million people, mainly women and children, living in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal lifespan.”

China and Russia blocked a UN resolution in early July 2020 that would have kept two border crossing points open from Turkey for humanitarian aid to be sent to Syria’s northwest Idlib. The council approved the delivery of aid through only one of the crossings, Bab Al-Hawa, a few days later. On July 9, 2021, the one-year mandate was extended for another year.

Last year, the UN provided 800 trucks of cross-border supplies to the northwest each month, “consistently reaching 2.4 million people,” Msuya told the council.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s UN Ambassador, has stated that aid should be overseen by Syria’s government, which is a Russian ally, and given across combat lines.

Three cross-line convoys have been despatched to the northwest, according to Msuya, but they cannot yet replace cross-border assistance delivery.

Nebenzia called this “mere unwillingness to solve the problem of humanitarian deliveries from Damascus to Idlib.”

“Let me be frank, in such circumstances, we can hardly see any reason why the cross-border resolution should be renewed again,” he said.

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Adoga Stephen
Adoga Stephen is a trained journalist, researcher, creative writer and freelancer. He studied Mass Communication at the Lagos State University of Science and Technology (then Laspotech) and acquired requisite skills for the practice of journalism, a profession he has been practicing since 2016.

The United Nations special envoy for Syria stated on Tuesday that he has sent invitations to the Syrian government and opposition for an eighth round of talks, which will begin in late May and attempt to revise the country’s constitution.

According to Geir Pedersen, an agreement on a rewritten constitution might help bring the 11-year battle to a political conclusion.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee’s seventh session finished on March 25, he stated, with delegations providing “at least some revisions to some of the texts presented.”

Pedersen stated that deputy special envoy Khawla Matar followed up with visits to Damascus and Istanbul to continue negotiations with the committee’s co-chairs, and that he had sent out invitations for the eighth session, which will take place in Geneva from May 28 to June 3.

The drafting process will only forward if the committee’s work is “governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement aimed at reaching general agreement of its members,” he said.

The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey, and all five permanent Security Council members agreed a road plan to peace in Syria in 2012. It calls for the development of a new constitution. It culminates in UN-supervised elections in which all Syrians, even those in exile, are eligible to vote. The road map was unanimously accepted by the Security Council in December 2015.

A deal was achieved in January 2018 at a Syrian peace conference hosted by Russia to form a 150-member committee to design a new constitution. The actual drafting would be done by a smaller, 45-member council that included 15 members from the administration, opposition, and civil society. The committee was not created until September 2019, and no work has been made since then.

READ MORE: Lebanon Fears Negative Impact Of Hezbollah Victory In Elections

“Syria is a hot conflict, not a frozen one,” Pedersen said in a video briefing to the council.

According to him, airstrikes have escalated in the northwest, clashes surrounding Afrin and in the northeast have intensified, and there have been continuing exchanges of rocket fire and shelling across all front lines, as well as improvised explosive devices, vehicle bombs, and other security events.

Pedersen encouraged the council to concentrate its efforts on Syria.

“The current strategic stalemate on the ground and Syria’s absence from the headlines should not mislead anyone into thinking that the conflict needs less attention or fewer resources, or that a political settlement is not urgent,” he said. “Indeed, a conflict of this scale requires a comprehensive solution” in line with the 2012 road map.

While the war in Ukraine is swiftly catching up, Pedersen said “Syria remains the biggest displacement crisis in the world” with 6.8 million refugees and 6.2 million people displaced in the country — “half the pre-war population.”

As the world’s attention shifts to other wars, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya cautioned that “Syria is on the verge of becoming yet another forgotten crisis.”

“Yet millions of Syrians struggle each month to survive, to feed their families and to provide a future for their children,” she said. “For many, their situation has never been more dire since violence erupted in 2011.”

Msuya said “a staggering 4.1 million people” in rebel-held northwest Syria need humanitarian aid, with almost a million people, mainly women and children, living in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal lifespan.”

China and Russia blocked a UN resolution in early July 2020 that would have kept two border crossing points open from Turkey for humanitarian aid to be sent to Syria’s northwest Idlib. The council approved the delivery of aid through only one of the crossings, Bab Al-Hawa, a few days later. On July 9, 2021, the one-year mandate was extended for another year.

Last year, the UN provided 800 trucks of cross-border supplies to the northwest each month, “consistently reaching 2.4 million people,” Msuya told the council.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s UN Ambassador, has stated that aid should be overseen by Syria’s government, which is a Russian ally, and given across combat lines.

Three cross-line convoys have been despatched to the northwest, according to Msuya, but they cannot yet replace cross-border assistance delivery.

Nebenzia called this “mere unwillingness to solve the problem of humanitarian deliveries from Damascus to Idlib.”

“Let me be frank, in such circumstances, we can hardly see any reason why the cross-border resolution should be renewed again,” he said.

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