Syrian government rejects UN-led committee to alter constitution

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks to attendees after a session of the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia Jan 30, 2018.(Reuters)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Syrian government rejects UN-led committee to alter constitution

DAMASCUS: Syria’s government on Tuesday rejected efforts led by the United Nations to form a committee to rewrite Syria’s constitution, the main result of a peace congress among Syrian groups in Russia last month.
“As a state, we are not bound by, nor have any relation with, any committee that is not Syrian formed, led and constituted,” said Ayman Soussan, an assistant to the Syrian Foreign Minister, at a press conference in Damascus.
“We are not bound by anything that is formed by foreign sides, whatever their name or state, we are not bound by it and it is of no concern to us,” he added.
Participants at the Sochi congress, a centerpiece of diplomatic efforts by Damascus’ ally Russia to end the war, agreed on Jan. 30 to set up the constitutional committee in Geneva, and to hold democratic elections in Syria.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said at Sochi that he would decide the criteria for committee members and select about 50 people from government, opposition and independent groups.
The main opposition negotiating group, which boycotted the Sochi meeting, said afterwards that it would cooperate with the formation of a constitutional committee so long as it would be under UN auspices.
Syria’s government said at the time that it welcomed the results of the Sochi meeting, but it made no mention then of the constitutional committee or call for democratic elections.
“De Mistura is a facilitator and not a mediator or a stand-in for other parties,” Soussan said on Tuesday.
Nine rounds of UN-sponsored peace talks, most of them in Geneva, have failed to bring Syria’s warring sides together after seven years of a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
Russia has pushed a parallel diplomatic process that is regarded with suspicion by much of the Syrian opposition.
President Bashar Assad’s government in 2012 announced voters had overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a referendum, conducted amid civil war bloodshed, that was derided as a sham by Assad’s critics at home and abroad.
The new basic law maintained real power in the presidency but dropped a clause that in effect granted Assad’s Baath Party a monopoly on power.


Canada to resettle group of Syrian White Helmets

Updated 55 min 26 sec ago
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Canada to resettle group of Syrian White Helmets

  • Canada has supported the work of the White Helmets by helping them to expand, train more volunteers, train more women and save more lives
  • Jordan said a group of 279 Syrian rescue workers has left the kingdom for resettlement in Western countries

OTTAWA: Canada is preparing to welcome a group of Syrian White Helmets rescuers, officials said on Friday, without specifying when they will be resettled.
“Together with a core group of international allies, Canada is working to resettle a group of White Helmets and their families after they had to flee Syria as a result of being specifically targeted by the Syrian regime and its backer, Russia,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said in a joint statement.
“As first responders, the White Helmets have witnessed first-hand some of the most appalling crimes committed by the murderous Assad regime. Canada has supported the work of the White Helmets by helping them to expand, train more volunteers, train more women and save more lives,” they said, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In July, following the evacuation of 400 White Helmets from Syria to Israel and then to Jordan, Canada announced that it was ready to accommodate 50 of them and their families, for a potential total of 250 people.
Jordan said Wednesday a group of 279 Syrian rescue workers has left the kingdom for resettlement in Western countries.
Founded in 2013, the Syrian Civil Defense, or White Helmets, is a network of first responders who rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory.