U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura hosted high ranking diplomats yesterday from three states backing de-escalation in Syria - Turkey, Russia and Iran - at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva to finalize efforts for establishing a constitutional committee.
The talks led by Staffan de Mistura started and ended with little or no comment to reporters at the U.N. offices in Geneva, and offered a sideshow to the concerns about a looming battle for the northern province - the last remaining opposition stronghold in Syria after 7.5 years of war and now home to some three million civilians. De Mistura's spokesman, Michael Contet, said in an email that any debriefing by the envoy about the meeting will be "reserved" for comments that he plans to make to U.N. Security Council next Tuesday. In Geneva, Turkey was represented by a committee headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal. The Russian delegation was represented by Russian Special Representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, while the Iranian delegation was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi-Ansari.
In the meeting, all details regarding the constitutional committee were expected to be discussed. In a press release, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said yesterday that establishing a constitutional committee, which is significant for the efforts to find a political resolution to the Syrian crisis, was handled in the meeting.
Accordingly, agreement in principle regarding the lists suggested by the regime and opposition were affirmed and the forming of a third group, civil society, was negotiated, the statement added.
It also underlined that the process will continue on a technical level between the Astana guarantors.
After the decision to form a constitutional committee for Syria at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held on Jan. 30 in Sochi, Russia, the last stage for efforts to form a constitutional committee had been nearing an end.
The decision was taken aiming to bring all warring parties in the Syrian conflict, excluding the terrorist groups, to the table to facilitate U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. Ankara voiced strong support for the territorial integrity of Syria, stressing that terrorist groups cannot be allowed to play any role in the future of Syria.
Ankara has been stressing that it backs efforts for establishing a constitutional committee in Syria. On July 5, the Syrian Negotiation Commission submitted a list of 50 candidates to represent the Syrian opposition in the constitutional committee to de Mistura, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
The meetings that have been held to end the civil war under the U.N. have had four main subject matters up for discussion: An interim government, a Constitution, elections and the fight against terrorism.
Meanwhile, on Friday, de Mistura will meet with officials from Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and the U.S. The U.S. delegation will be represented in Geneva by U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey and the U.S. State Department Syrian Special Envoy Joel Rayburn. The United Nations Security Council convened yesterday on the request of Russia to discuss the situation in Idlib. It was announced that in the Security Council meeting the Russian delegation was expected to provide information on the tripartite summit in Tehran held last Friday.
Ankara warned against a humanitarian disaster in Idlib and called on groups on the ground to lay down arms. U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock warned yesterday that the attack on Idlib, the last region in the hands of the Syrian opposition, should not be launched. Lowcock noted that if an offensive targets Idlib, the town may become the scene of a human catastrophe, with the biggest loss of life of the 21st century.