Breakthrough in Sight for Syria Constitution Body

Breakthrough in Sight for Syria Constitution Body  Breakthrough in Sight for Syria Constitution Body

The Syrian government and armed opposition groups, together with both sides' backers, are close to agreeing on the composition of a constitutional committee in the coming months, Russian negotiator, Alexander Lavrentiev, said on Friday.
Forming a constitutional committee is key to political reforms and new elections meant to unify Syria and end an eight-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced about half of Syria's pre-war population of 22 million. 
The parties concerned have so far failed to agree the constitutional committee's composition, and a fresh round of talks in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, produced no apparent breakthrough on Friday. But Lavrentiev said it was close.
Diplomats from Russia, Iran and Turkey will meet with United Nations negotiators in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the issue again, he said, adding that the issue was near “the finish line", Reuters reported.
"The timing has not been agreed yet; taking into account the upcoming month of Ramadan, it is most likely to happen after that," Lavrentiev told reporters. "But I think by that time [UN mediator] Mr. [Geir] Pedersen will be able to announce" the establishment of the committee. 
Ramadan starts on May 5 this year and ends on June 4.
Russia and Iran are supporters of the Syrian government, while Turkey was long a backer of rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The three countries have cooperated in trying to broker a peace agreement.



Golan Heights

In a joint statement after the 12th round of Astana meetings on Syria in Nur-Sultan, Tehran, Ankara and Moscow condemned the US decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over occupied Syrian Golan Heights. 
The three guarantor countries of the Astana process on Syrian peace reaffirmed their strong commitment "to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter", Daily Sabah reported. 
On March 25, US President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the highlands on the border with Syria as Israel's territory. It is akin to a third country recognizing, for instance, the US city San Diego in California as Mexican territory.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. It occupies roughly two-thirds of the wider Golan Heights as a result of the conflict. It moved to formally annex the territory in 1981, which was unanimously rejected at the time by the UN Security Council.
Iran, Turkey and Russia underscored that the UN principles should be universally respected and that no actions should undermine them.
"In this regard, they strongly condemned the decision of the US administration to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, which constitutes a grave violation of international law, particularly the UN Security Council Resolution 497 and threatens peace and security in the Middle East," the statement read.
The first meeting of the Astana process was held in January 2017 to bring all warring parties in the Syrian conflict to the table to facilitate UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. 
The Astana talks support the establishment of a UN-backed constitutional committee in Syria as a way to find a political solution.
The planned constitutional committee, including representatives from the opposition, the government and guarantor countries, will be tasked with writing and establishing Syria's postwar constitution.



Positive Steps 

On Friday, the parties also reiterated their determination to implement agreements on the stabilization of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area and welcomed steps taken to this end, including coordinated patrols, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
They reaffirmed their commitment to continue their cooperation in combating terrorism and agreed on taking concrete steps aimed at reducing ceasefire violations in the area.
In addition, Tehran, Ankara and Moscow agreed to invite Syria's neighboring countries—Iraq and Lebanon—to the subsequent high-level meetings on Syria as observers.
The next international meeting on Syria in the Astana format will be held in July 2019, IRNA reported, citing the joint statement.

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