The Baghdad Post

Russia, Iran, Turkey agree on convening committee to draw up new Syria constitution

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to facilitate convening the first session of a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution early next year.

Lavrov spoke in Geneva following consultations with the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey.

He says the three leaders hope the steps will lead to the launch of a “viable and lasting Syrian-led, Syrian-owned and UN-facilitated political process.”

The 150-member committee is intended to represent the government, the opposition and civil society and is seen by the UN as key to holding free elections and ending the seven-year civil war.

The Syria envoy was authorized to put together such a committee at a Russian-hosted peace conference in Sochi on Jan. 30.

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria who steps down on Dec. 31, has tried since January to clinch agreement on the identity of 150 members of a new constitutional committee to revitalize a stalled peace process.

President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition fighting to topple him have each submitted a list of 50 names. But Russia, Iran andTurkey have haggled over the final 50 members from civil society and “independent” backgrounds, diplomats say.

“The three countries are coming with a proposal for the third list, which has been the heart of the problem,” one diplomat following the negotiations closely told Reuters.

Turkey and other nations would consider working with Assad if he won a democratic election, Cavusoglu said on Sunday.

Turkey supports rebels who control part of northwest Syria. A year ago, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described Assad as a terrorist and said it was impossible for Syrian peacemaking efforts to continue with him.

Assad, whose forces have reclaimed most of Syria with Russian and Iranian support apart from Idlib, a northwestern province, has clung to power throughout the conflict and is widely seen as being loath to yield power after it ends.

The Damascus government has previously brushed off UN-led efforts to set up a constitutional committee.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem, in comments reported by state media on Monday, said it was “early to talk about” the constitutional committee starting work. He blamed attempts at “interference” by Western states for the hold-up in its formation, in addition to “obstacles” laid by Turkey.

Syrian authorities have only ever signaled a readiness for “amendments” to the existing constitution and also said these must be put to a referendum.

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. Source