High-Level Talks in Geneva Mull Over New Syria Constitutional Body

High-Level Talks in Geneva Mull Over New Syria Constitutional Body High-Level Talks in Geneva Mull Over New Syria Constitutional Body

Iran, Russia and Turkey were expected to announce an agreement on the composition of a Syrian constitutional committee that could help draft a new charter followed by elections.
The foreign ministers of the three nations, which have been striving to end Syria’s nearly eight-year war, met on Tuesday in Geneva to seek the United Nations’ blessing for their joint proposal, Reuters quoted diplomats as saying on Monday. 
Iran’s chief diplomat, Mohammed Javad Zarif, arrived in the Swiss city on Tuesday to put the finishing touches on and announce the initiative along with Russian and Turkish counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, respectively. 
Asked upon his arrival whether he expected a deal to be reached, Zarif told reporters, “I hope so.” 
The draft of the proposal was completed by the ministers’ top aides during a meeting in Geneva on Monday, the website of the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It said the final announcement would include the identity of members of the new constitutional committee meant to help revitalize a dormant peace process. 


List of Members

The statement added that the senior assistants submitted the finalized list of members from civil society to UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who steps down at the yearend.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition fighting to topple him had each submitted a list of 50 names, but the three nations had been haggling over the final 50 members from civil society and “independent” members, according to the diplomats. 
“The three countries are coming with a proposal for the third list, which has been [at] the heart of the problem,” said one diplomat ahead of Tuesday’s talks.
The Turkish foreign minister told a conference in Qatar two days before coming to Geneva that his country and other world powers would consider working with Assad if he won a democratic election.  
Ankara supported the opposition to Assad in the Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011 and continues to support militants who control part of northwest Syria.


Starting Point

De Mistura said at the weekend that the constitutional committee could be a starting point for political progress.
“It does touch, for instance, on presidential powers, it could and should be touching on how elections are done, on division of power, in other words a big issue,” he said in remarks carried by Reuters. 
De Mistura will be under “heavy pressure” to accept the trio’s proposal to complete the makeup of the constitutional body but may leave the decision to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York later this week, the diplomats said.
“The last word is with us, with the UN, not with any country, as good and as powerful as they may be,” he said on Sunday. 
Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a senior assistant to the Iranian foreign minister, met the Syrian president in Damascus on Sunday to discuss the formation of the constitutional committee as part of efforts to restore peace to the Arab country, Syria’s presidential media office was cited as saying by ISNA.  
Tehran, Ankara and Moscow began holding regular talks on the Syrian conflict in the capital of Kazakhstan—which is not involved in the Syrian war—at the start of 2017. They helped reduce violence by creating de-escalation zones across Syria among other measures.

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