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

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.
prh/jh/ch


Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

Updated 28 May 2020

Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

  • Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley will remain in what he described as an “enclave” after Israel annexes the territory and will not be granted Israeli citizenship.
Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in line with President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, a process that could begin as early as July 1.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley and the far-flung settlements would make it virtually impossible to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely seen as the only way to resolve the decades-old conflict.
In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, Netanyahu said Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, including residents of the city of Jericho, would remain under limited Palestinian self-rule, with Israel having overall security control.
“They will remain a Palestinian enclave,” he said. “You’re not annexing Jericho. There’s a cluster or two. You don’t need to apply sovereignty over them. They will remain Palestinian subjects, if you will. But security control also applies to these places.”
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military rule since the 1967 war, when Israel captured the territory, along with east Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.
The Trump plan would grant the Palestinians limited statehood over scattered enclaves surrounded by Israel if they meet a long list of conditions. Israel has embraced the plan, while the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, has angrily rejected it and cut ties with the US and Israel.
Netanyahu said that if the Palestinians accept all the conditions in the plan, including Israel maintaining overall security control, “then they will have an entity of their own that President Trump defines as a state.”
Under a coalition agreement reached last month, Netanyahu can bring his annexation plans before the government as early as July 1.
The Palestinian Authority has said it is no longer bound by any agreements signed with Israel and the US, and says it has cut off security coordination with Israel. Neighboring Jordan, a close Western ally and one of only two Arab states to have made peace with Israel, has warned of a “massive conflict” if Israel proceeds with annexation.