UN envoy says new Syria committee could be agreed soon

UN peace envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen is optimistic that agreement can be reached on forming. (AFP pic)

The UN peace envoy for Syria voiced optimism on Tuesday that agreement could be reached on a new committee tasked with drafting a constitution for post-war Syria that could be up and running in the coming months.

Geir Pedersen, who took up the post in January, told the Security Council that the constitutional committee would be “a first sign of real movement” toward ending the eight-year war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions.

Discussions on the committee have been bogged down in disagreements over the composition of three lists of members from the government, opposition and civil society and religious groups.

But after a meeting in Kazakhstan of Russia, Iran and Turkey last week and other discussions, Pedersen said he believed differences had been narrowed and that agreement was within reach.

Asked whether the committee could hold its first meeting this summer, Pedersen told reporters: “Yes, I’m hopeful. I believe it should be possible to move forward. We have made tangible progress.”

While he cautioned that there was “no agreement before everything is agreed”, he nevertheless said: “Yes, I’m optimistic.”

In a sign of movement, six Syrian civil society representatives have been dropped from the lists of delegates to the proposed constitutional committee and new names will be put forward.

Pedersen, a Norwegian diplomat who took over the Syria file from Swedish-Italian envoy Staffan de Mistura, has traveled to Damascus for talks and worked hard to establish good relations.