Syria talks a ‘disappointment’, says UN envoy

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen (Credit: Keystone / Martial Trezzini)

The UN special envoy for Syria has said the latest round of talks to revise the country’s constitution have been a “disappointment”.

Speaking on Friday following the fifth-round of the Constitutional Committee talks in Geneva, Geir Pederson said the week of meetings between delegates from the Syrian government, opposition and civil society had failed to make any progress.

“I set out a few things I thought we should be able to achieve before we started this meeting, and I'm afraid we did not manage to achieve these things,” said Pederson, who in a briefing to the Security Council last week said it was time “to ensure that the committee begins to move from preparing their constitutional reform into actually drafting one.”

However, Pederson said the committee co-chairs had failed to agree on “working methods” for the talks, meaning they were unable to move on from discussing topics to the drafting stage, as he had hoped.

This was the fifth time the small body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee convened since it was established by the UN in September 2019, to support reconciliation efforts by redrafting the country’s constitution.

In his address to the Security Council, Pederson stressed the need for meetings to be “more organised and focused” and for parties to exhibit “more urgency into delivering progress in this process”, noting that many subjects had been discussed for more than a year.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he said both he and committee co-chairs had offered proposals for how the meetings could be organised in order to move the process forward, but that these were rejected, meaning talks began “without an agreed methodology for how to continue”.

“This week has shown that such an approach is not working and we cannot continue to meet if we do not change this,” he added.

Pederson said the co-chairs of the committee need to “work better together” and “produce a work plan for how the meetings will be organised in the future” before a sixth round of talks can be scheduled, adding he hoped to travel to Damascus to discuss this soon.

“This is not a debating committee,” said Pederson. “You can continue debating forever. We need to move this into a manner where the members themselves start to identify areas where they agree or disagree, and then move into the drafting phase.”