150-strong Syrian constitutional committee agreed to at Sochi congress

150-strong Syrian constitutional committee agreed to at Sochi congress
The Syrian National Dialogue Congress meeting in Sochi, Russia has agreed to create a committee that will work on a new constitution for Syria. The body is expected to operate under the auspices of the UN in Geneva.

"A Constitutional Committee is to be formed, comprising the government of the Syrian Arab republic delegation along with a wide-represented opposition delegation for drafting a constitutional reform,” UN special envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura said, addressing the Congress.

“In your final declaration today you’ve embraced 12 principles, developed in the Geneva political process, which describes a vision of Syria, that all Syrians should be able to share.”

The UN official said there were heated discussion during the Congress, but added it’s a completely normal occurrence during democratic negotiations. The new panel is perceived to be a valuable contribution to the Geneva process – “the political settlement under the auspices of the UN [and] in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254,” de Mistura underlined.

Moscow expects de Mistura and the UN to take practical steps to implement the decisions taken at the Sochi Congress, and to actively participate in the drafting of a new constitution for Syria, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters. “We are not trying to look into the future now. We’ve agreed today that the results of the Congress are presented to the UN in hope that they will stimulate the Geneva process,” Lavrov said.

“Staffan de Mistura has all the powers needed, given by the Resolution 2254. The support to these... De Mistura’s powers was shown during the Congress and he was asked to actively engage in work on the Constitution.”

The three countries, who brokered the Sochi Congress, Russia Iran and Turkey will fully support the UN and de Mistura in the implementation of its outcomes, Lavrov added.

The Constitution Commission will comprise 150 members and the full list will be forwarded to the UN following the settling of some minor issues, Russia's Special Presidential envoy to Syria Aleksandr Lavrentyev said. Some1,393 delegates took part in the Congress, according to the envoy, while over 1,500 invitations had been sent out beforehand.

The Constitutional Committee will also include delegates from those groups who did not attend the Sochi gathering for whatever reason, Lavrov said. “Obviously, no one expected that it’ll be possible to gather representatives of absolutely all groups of the Syrian nation – both loyal to the government, neutral and opposition. The fact that two-three groups could not participate should not be seen as a tragedy,” Russia's top diplomat stated.

Lavrov brushed off criticism “from Paris, Washington and several other capitals” that the Congress is not representative enough. He pointed out that unlike the recent Group of Five (France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UK and US) meeting in Paris, the Sochi platform was open to all to participate in and included “observers from all permanent UN Security Council members, all Syria’s neighbor states, from other Arab countries and Kazakhstan as a host country.

Comparing the two processes, Lavrov argued that the plan proposed in Paris for a settlement in Syria was the result of “non-transparent activity that runs counter to the Geneva process” as it was drawn up by “five randomly chosen countries” which cast aside not only Damascus, but also key players like Russia, Turkey and Iran, who serve as guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire.

“The resolution of the crisis will happen urgently under United Nations auspices in Geneva, France has that as a immediate objective. It’s not happening in Sochi and it must happen in Geneva,” French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said ahead of the Congress.

Russia's most senior diplomat directly addressed Le Drian's attempt to juxtapose the goals of the meeting in Sochi against those of the Geneva process. Lavrov explained that the Congress, has in fact, “provided a very strong support to Geneva, to the UN role [in the Geneva process] on the bases of UN Security Council resolution 2254, which means that any steps should be mutually agreed [upon] by the government and the opposition.”

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