The United Nations plans to push its latest attempts to implement a constitutional committee for Syria in mid-December, signaling that if this attempt also fails, the organization may stop trying.
"We are in the last days of the attempts to implement the constitutional committee," U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Syria crisis on Monday.
"We may have to conclude that it may not be possible to form a constitutional committee, credible and inclusive, at this stage," said the envoy, speaking by video conference from Geneva.
"In such an unfortunate case, I will certainly be ready to explain to the council why," he warned.
The planned constitutional committee agreed at a Russia-hosted conference in January that it has run into objections from the Syrian government over allowing religious leaders, representatives from women's groups and independent experts to take part. Still, implementation of a constitutional committee is seen as a key to holding elections and ending the country's civil war.
De Mistura told the Security Council that the U.N. also aims to hold the committee's first meeting before Dec. 31.
Under the Sochi agreement, the committee is to comprise 150 members. There is already agreement on the 50-member delegation from the government and the 50-member delegation from the opposition.
He said the U.N. welcomes "constructive and moderate suggestions" to change the list of the disputed 50 members. But de Mistura said they must "maintain the same spirit of credibility, balance and international legitimacy," and he stressed that the list can't be filled with political leaders who are already represented.
De Mistura was supposed to step down at the end of December but U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday he will be staying on "for a bit longer" to make sure there is no gap "at an extremely critical time in the Syria talks." He will be succeeded by veteran Norwegian ambassador Geir Pederson.
"The weeks to come will be of crucial importance in attempts to form a constitution-drafting committee," de Mistura said.