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Syrian regime accused of sabotage after snubbing UN-backed constitutional talks

The constitutional committee’s talks have repeatedly stalled [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 November, 2019

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Syria's opposition has accused the regime of sabotaging the work of a UN-sponsored committee after failing to turn up for a second day of talks.

Senior officials from the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) have accused the Syrian regime of sabotaging the work of the UN-sponsored Syrian Constitutional Committee.

On Tuesday, regime representatives failed to attend the second day of the committee’s meetings in Geneva, leading to Tuesday’s meeting being called off.

The committee responsible for drafting a new constitution for Syria is made up of 150 representatives, 50 from the regime, 50 from the opposition, and 50 from civil society groups.

The UN sees the writing of a new constitution as a major step towards ending Syria’s eight year long conflict, which began in 2011 following the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests by the Assad regime.

Read more: Ways out of Syria’s reconstruction conundrum

Only the head of the regime’s delegation turned up to the committee’s meeting venue on Tuesday, amid a dispute over the meeting agenda. Three members of the opposition delegation turned up. The UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, asked the civil society delegates not to come to the meeting until the regime-opposition dispute over the meeting’s agenda was solved.

The Syrian news website Enab Baladi reported that the regime had demanded that the opposition delegation sign up to a document condemning “Turkish occupation” of Syria. Most of the Syrian political opposition is based in Turkey.

“There is no agreement on the programme, on the schedule to be discussed at the meeting. What was presented [by the regime] was something merely political,” Yahya al-Aridi, a senior opposition spokesman, told reporters.

Opposition sources told Enab Baladi that the regime had repeatedly delayed submitting suggestions for the meeting’s agenda to the UN before the meeting took place.

The foreign affairs coordinator of the SNC, Abdel Ahed Stefo said on Tuesday said that the regime was deliberately stalling and refusing to get involved in the constitutional process. He added that this indicated the extent of the regime’s “fear of the constitutional process”, saying that the regime was “terrified of the constitution and elections”.

Stefo also said that the regime’s military campaign in Idlib province was part of a strategy to ensure the failure of the constitutional committee and the political process.

On Wednesday morning, two people were killed and several wounded in regime and Russian airstrikes on Idlib province, the last major rebel-held area in Syria. An estimated 90 people have been killed and 50,000 displaced this month in Idlib following the resumption of airstrikes after a two-month lull.

The setting up of the Syrian constitutional committee has been repeatedly stalled for years over differences regarding the composition of the committee. The first meeting of the constitutional committee took place at the beginning of November in Geneva.

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