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Worth going ‘extra mile’ for a new Syrian constitution, UN envoy urges

UN Photo/Violaine Martin Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, briefs the press after the Joint Meeting on Syria, at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. 18 December 2018.

UN Photo/Violaine Martin
Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, briefs the press after the Joint Meeting on Syria, at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. 18 December 2018.

Efforts to establish a constitutional committee for Syria are worth going the “extra mile” for, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday, after meeting the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Turkey – guarantors of a fragile ceasefire in the wartorn country – who agreed that it should convene for the first time early next year, in Geneva.

Speaking to journalists in the Swiss city, the veteran negotiator confirmed that he had held “intensive” consultations with Sergey Lavrov (Russia), Mevlut Cavusoglu (Turkey) and Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran).

“In close consultation with the Secretary-General, I believe that there is an extra mile to go in the marathon effort to ensure the necessary package for a credible, balanced and inclusive constitutional committee,” Mr de Mistura said, “and for including a balanced chairing arrangement and drafting body and voting threshold – to be established under UN auspices in Geneva.”

The establishment of a 150-member constitutional committee for Syria was agreed at peace talks held in Sochi, Russia, in January, with a view to creating a new more inclusive system of governance in Syria, in the post-war era.

At a UN Security Council briefing in October, Mr de Mistura noted that the Government of Syria had proposed that the UN withdraw a list of 50 individuals that the organization had suggested should serve on the committee.

This “Middle Third List” included delegates that represented Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women.

At what was likely his last press conference in Geneva before stepping down as UN Special Envoy for Syria after more than four years in the post, Mr de Mistura explained that he would be going to UN headquarters in New York to consult with the Secretary-General and to brief the Security Council on developments on Thursday.

His comments come after more than seven years of conflict that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced millions and destroyed Syria’s economy and infrastructure.

Noting that his successor, Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen, would start work on 7 January, Mr de Mistura stressed “the determination of the UN to continue its efforts for the Syrian people. I would like to underline the importance of the international community to unite as one in the period ahead to enable the political process as mandated by the Security Council to move forward.”



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