Left to right: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu shake hands after a meeting on forming a constitutional committee in Syria, on December 18, 2018 at the United Nations Offices in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Syrian constitution committee will hold its first meeting in early 2019, the Astana guarantors announced in a statement after a meeting on Tuesday.
The foreign ministers of the three nations of the Astana-based Syrian peace process – Russia, Iran, and Turkey – met in Geneva with United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura.
“The work of the Constitutional Committee should be governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement,” read a joint statement from the three foreign ministers.
They agreed that the committee will have its first meeting in Geneva sometime in early 2019 and “expressed their conviction that these steps will lead to the launch of a viable and lasting Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, and UN-facilitated political process.”
The committee will be tasked with drafting a new constitution.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif stressed the importance of Syrians leading efforts to find a political solution to the civil conflict that has raged for more than seven years.
“The West has now been compelled to accept this. But it needs to facilitate; not dictate,” he tweeted.
Mistura separately spoke to reporters after what he dubbed an “intensive day of consultations.”
He is due to step down from the post of special envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Syria at the end of the year. He had hoped to see the establishment of the constitution committee before his departure.
The committee was originally envisioned to bring together equal numbers of members appointed by the regime and the opposition, as well as experts and civil society members named by Mistura. Damascus, however, rejected the UN’s role.
“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,” Mistura said on Tuesday.
He will brief the Secretary General and the Security Council later this week on the progress made and work still to go.
“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,” he said.
Mistura’s successor, Norwegian Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen will step into the role in January.