Constitutional committee will not be formed by year’s end: UN Syria envoy

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura arrives to a press conference after a meeting on forming a constitutional committee in Syria. (AFP)
Updated 22 December 2018
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Constitutional committee will not be formed by year’s end: UN Syria envoy

  • According to the UN plan, the committee would have 150 members
  • Damascus blocked the composition of UN-chosen members of the committee, and recently suggested its own “17 name changes” to the list

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Thursday acknowledged that a committee tasked with writing a new constitution for the war-wracked country would not be in place by year’s end as was hoped.
“We have nearly completed the work of putting in place a constitutional committee to draft a constitutional reform, as a contribution to the political process — but there is an extra mile to go,” De Mistura told the Security Council.
“I deeply regret what has not been achieved, and I am sorry more was not possible,” he added, noting there were issues with a list of participants proposed by the government in Damascus.
According to the UN plan, the committee would have 150 members: 50 chosen by the regime of President Bashar Assad, 50 by the opposition and 50 by the United Nations, the latter group made up of technical experts and representatives of civil society.
But Damascus blocked the composition of the third group, and recently suggested its own “17 name changes” to the list, according to a diplomat who asked not to be named.
Although Damascus’ objection was backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the UN said the changes would alter the balance of the group and said it could only accept six of them.
“The United Nations, having examined the names, assessed that we would not feel comfortable yet giving the UN stamp of legitimacy to all 50 of them as meeting the necessary criteria of credibility and balance — hence the need for going an extra-mile,” De Mistura said, calling some of those Syria had sought to exclude “natural bridge-builders.”
While he failed to finalize the composition of the committee, De Mistura, who will leave the post next month, said “we have identified and put in place some of the key building blocks on which the future process can build.”
During the debate at the Security Council, Britain and France accused Damascus of blocking the UN envoy’s efforts, and reprimanded Russian and Iran — Assad’s main backers — for failing to exert their influence to sway the regime.
“Let me be clear,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Rodney Hunter. “There will be no reconstruction money, there will be no legitimacy for the regime, there will be no facilitation for returns of refugees — they will not be discussed or even considered until we get this political process moving,” he said.
Francois Delattre, his French counterpart, said the new list was made up of people that Russia, Turkey and Iran “knew were unacceptable and put the entire credibility of the future committee at risk.”
More than 360,000 people have been killed in the war, which began in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad but has morphed into a complex conflict with myriad armed groups, many of whom are foreign-backed.
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.