Ankara aims for political solution in Syria, regime continues to be obstacle

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published 31.08.2019 00:25

Turkey reiterated its willingness to reach a political solution in Syria, underlining the threat posed by the Syrian regime against peace and stability.

The Turkish military will leave Syria when a political solution is reached but for now, the Bashar Assad regime doesn't believe in such a solution, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters in Norway as part of a two-day official visit, the minister reiterated Turkey's determination to reach a political solution in Syria.

However, the Syrian regime continues to pose a major threat to a possible political solution in the region, he added.

This is not the first time Turkey has expressed its willingness to find a political solution in Syria as the country has been conducted diplomatic efforts for years to urge parties to come up with a solution that would ensure peace in the region. One of these diplomatic missions is the Astana process, where initial major steps for peace such as the establishment of de-escalation zones and constitutional committee have been taken.

While the first meeting of the Astana process was in Turkey in January 2017 to facilitate U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva, officials from the three countries most recently met in the newly renamed Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan early this month in the 13th round. Previously during the G20 summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that in sideline meetings during the event, relevant world leaders decided the next Astana summit would be held in Turkey.

The planned constitutional committee, including representatives from the opposition, the regime and guarantor countries, will be tasked with writing and establishing Syria's post-war constitution, which is seen as a stepping-stone to elections in the war-torn country. The formation of the committee has been stalled for some time now due to objections from the Assad regime since participants at a Russia-hosted conference in January agreed to establish it.

The committee will consist of 150 members, including a 50-member delegation from the regime and a 50-member delegation from the opposition. The Syrian regime has been objecting to 50 members of the committee representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women.

Turkey believes that a constitutional committee might be very effective in coming up with a political solution in Syria since it would ensure that all parties have representation while offering the possibility of opening a path for a new political process, leaving the memories of regime brutalities behind.

During the previous rounds of the Astana talks, the three countries agreed on several topics and implemented them. They decided to strengthen the mechanism established to ensure monitoring of the implementation of the cease-fire in Syria and to create tension zones where the conflict is most intense between the opposition and regime forces. Also, with a project prepared by a working group formed under the Astana trio and the U.N. to investigate the fate of missing people and the release of those who have been detained, several detainee swap deals have been carried out.

Syria constitutional committee may be formed next monthWhile the idea of a constitutional committee has been keeping actors busy for some time, according to the U.N. special envoy for Syria it is highly possible for the notion to transition from a mere idea to reality. On Thursday, Geir Pedersen said he is "quietly hopeful" the U.N. could announce an agreement to launch a constitutional committee before world leaders gather in late September, a step which could lead to a political solution to end the eight-year conflict.

Speaking to the U.N. Security Council, Pedersen expressed that the package to resolve outstanding names, terms of reference and rules of procedure "is nearly finalized, and the outstanding differences are, in my assessment, comparatively minor."

A proposal to form a constitutional committee was agreed upon on Jan. 30 at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian city of Sochi, organized by Ankara, Tehran and Moscow.

The parties at the two-day congress said in a final statement they wanted to bring an end to the ongoing conflict in the region as soon as possible.

Pedersen said there is "a strong understanding" between the regime and opposition that there be two equal co-chairmen of the constitutional committee, one from each side. He said there is also such a view about "a 75 percent voting threshold while striving for consensus" on constitutional provisions as well as having a large group of 150 members and a small one of 45 members.

Pedersen also said the Russian and Turkish governments "have been of particular assistance," and he told the council he is ready to return to Damascus in the very near future "as part of completing the work."

It's also time for the three countries in the Astana process, Russia, Turkey and Iran, and the so-called Small Group comprising Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States, to come together "in a very practical way," Pedersen said.

However, not all the actors agree on every topic regarding the case, as Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky, whose country is a close ally of the Syrian regime, said on Thursday that Syria wouldn't be facing "these terrible problems and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people" without "the terrorists" and efforts by Western powers to overthrow the regime.

Polyansky said Moscow is taking "active measures to promote the political process" and is optimistic the preparations for a constitutional committee will soon be completed.

Assad regime oversees disappearances of 85,000 civiliansStill, it is not surprising to see that most actors, except Russia, have been against the regime, with its brutalities reported repeatedly over the last eight years. The Syrian Opposition and the Revolutionary Forces (SMDK) announced Friday that the Syrian regime has forced the disappearances of almost 85,000 civilians and urged the international community to take action against this violation of human rights.

Releasing a written statement, the SMDK said the regime has used the method of forced disappearances against opposition figures in addition to committing murder, massacre displacement, detainment and torture.

In the statement, it was written that defenseless people like children, the elderly and women have been targeted during the practice of forced disappearance.

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