UN and Syria ‘close’ to agreeing constitutional committee

United Nations special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen speaks to journalists upon his arrival in the Syrian capital Damascus Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019

UN and Syria ‘close’ to agreeing constitutional committee

  • UN Syria envoy Gerd Pedersen made the statement after meeting the Syrian foreign minister
  • A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said significant progress had been made in the talks

DAMASCUS: The United Nations is close to agreement with Syria on setting up a constitutional committee, a long-awaited step in a stalled peace process, the UN Syria envoy said on Wednesday.
"I believe we have made a very solid progress and we are very close to have agreement on establishing the constitutional committee," Gerd Pedersen told reporters after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem.
The United Nations wants to convene the committee as a next step in efforts to find a political solution to end the war in Syria, but there has been no agreement so far on who should be on it.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said significant progress had been made in the talks, but also reiterated its previous stance that the constitutional committee should be a purely Syrian affair.
Pedersen also called for a return to stability in Idlib province, where a government offensive has targeted the last major rebel stronghold, and said a truce there agreed last year between Russia and Turkey should come back into force.
Russia is along with Iran the main supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, who now controls most of the country, while Turkey backs some of the rebel groups in Idlib and adjacent areas.


Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

Updated 11 December 2019

Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

  • Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months
  • Lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill

JERUSALEM: Israeli legislators submitted a bill Tuesday that would dissolve parliament and trigger unprecedented third national elections in less than a year.
Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months.
With the two largest parties, Likud and Blue and White, unable to form a power-sharing agreement ahead of a Wednesday deadline, lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill.
It is expected to go to a vote in parliament on Wednesday, setting the date for the next election on March 2.
“Under the exceptional circumstances that have emerged, and after two adjacent election campaigns in which no government was formed, the dissolution of the 22nd Knesset is being proposed,” the bill reads.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government after two inconclusive elections. Polls have predicted the third vote is unlikely to produce dramatically different results.
The legislation is something of a formality. The allotted period for forming a government following September’s election expires at midnight on Wednesday. Without a coalition deal, elections would have been automatically triggered later in March.
Each of this year’s elections, and their subsequent coalition jockeying, have largely been a referendum on Netanyahu, who was recently indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption affairs.
Blue and White’s Gantz has refused to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, citing the long-serving leader’s legal troubles. Netanyahu has refused to step down, still overwhelmingly backed by his Likud party and his adoring base.