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Major forces report progress on the new Syria constitution

GENEVA – Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to facilitate the convening of a first meeting of a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution early next year and said that they hoped It will lead to the launch of a "viable and lasting" peace process. In a joint statement read by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, they said that the work of the committee should be governed by a "sense of compromise and constructive commitment." But the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that " There is an extra mile to go in the marathon work "to ensure a credible, balanced and inclusive constitutional committee. He refused to immerse himself in his comments to journalists in Geneva after the meeting. De Mistura, which ends December 31, will shorten the Security Council on Thursday. The 150-member committee, which has been one year at work, is intended to represent the government, the opposition and civil society and is seen by the United Nations and the United States as the key to holding free elections and ending the seven-year civil war that has killed more than 450,000 people. The UN Syria Envoy was empowered to compile such a committee at a Russian host conference in the Black Sea, Sochi, January 30, but its formation has been hampered by disagreements and the UN has accused the Syrian government of blocking efforts to elaborate a new constitution. The question is the 50-member delegation representing civil society, experts,…

Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to facilitate the convening of a first meeting of a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution early next year and said that they hoped It will lead to the launch of a “viable and lasting” peace process.

In a joint statement read by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, they said that the work of the committee should be governed by a “sense of compromise and constructive commitment.”

But the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that ” There is an extra mile to go in the marathon work “to ensure a credible, balanced and inclusive constitutional committee. He refused to immerse himself in his comments to journalists in Geneva after the meeting.

De Mistura, which ends December 31, will shorten the Security Council on Thursday.

The 150-member committee, which has been one year at work, is intended to represent the government, the opposition and civil society and is seen by the United Nations and the United States as the key to holding free elections and ending the seven-year civil war that has killed more than 450,000 people.

The UN Syria Envoy was empowered to compile such a committee at a Russian host conference in the Black Sea, Sochi, January 30, but its formation has been hampered by disagreements and the UN has accused the Syrian government of blocking efforts to elaborate a new constitution.

The question is the 50-member delegation representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women whom the government has objected to. There is already an agreement on the 50-member delegation from the government and the 50-member delegation from the opposition.

“We are slowly coming to a conclusion,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, suggesting that there were still contradictions about which civil society groups should participate.

“We have reached an important step in our work towards the Syrian constitutional committee,” he told reporters.

The government of Damascus has previously told the UN Envoy that the Constitution is a “sovereign” issue and that Damascus does not allow any foreign involvement in it.

The opposition has demanded a new constitution that would enable a political transition from the Assad family decades of rule. But after a series of major victories, the government shows some interest in making concessions and has said that it will only accept changes to the current constitution.

On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said it was too early to talk about the beginning of the Constitutional Committee’s work “due to the fact that some Western countries tried to intervene in their work.”

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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to report

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