U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen met yesterday in Geneva the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran and Russia, a day ahead of the first meeting of Syria's Constitutional Committee.
Pedersen on Monday called for the cease-fire in northeastern Syria to be extended as he tries to move ahead with a political process to end the eight-year-long war.
Turkey's Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif and Russia's Sergei Lavrov are due to meet in the Swiss city before the 150-member Syrian panel convenes under the auspices of the U.N.
"We do believe that the fighting going on is just another proof of the importance to get a serious political process underway that can help sort out the problems in all of Syria, including the northeast and also Idlib," Pedersen told a news conference.
The committee is seen as key to paving the way for political reform and free and fair U.N.-supervised elections in the country, where the war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee.
"We are strongly appealing for the cease-fires to be respected and that we have also been appealing for a nationwide cease-fire to come into effect," Pedersen added.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Monday that the PKK-linked People’s Protection Units (YPG) had not yet fully withdrawn from a strip of land in northeastern Syria, contrary to the Russian-brokered cease-fire that expired yesterday.
Pedersen has already met envoys from seven countries, including U.S. Special Representative James Jeffrey, who told reporters that the panel was an important step forward to resolving the conflict.
The gathering, with support from powers backing both sides, marks the first political negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition, Pedersen said.
The Bashar Assad regime, Syrian opposition and civil society groups each have 50 members in the committee. The terrorist YPG does not have any representation in the committee due to Turkey’s initiatives.
On the other hand, the Astana peace process – seeking to end the Syrian conflict once and for all and facilitate the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva – was launched in January 2017 on the initiative of Turkey, Russia and Iran.
The first meeting of the Astana process was held in Turkey in January 2017 to bring all warring parties in the Syrian conflict to the table.
The Astana talks support the establishment of the U.N.-backed constitutional committee in Syria as part of finding a political solution. The constitutional committee – including representatives from the opposition, regime and guarantor countries – is tasked with writing and establishing Syria's post-war constitution, which is seen as a stepping-stone to elections in the war-torn country.
Last month, a trilateral summit in Ankara between Turkey, Russia and Iran, the fifth such meeting under the scope of the Astana talks, laid the foundation for a permanent solution in Syria by forming a constitutional committee. Then, the formation of a constitutional committee for Syria was announced.
Last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reached an agreement in Sochi on Sept. 17. According to the agreement, the cease-fire in the Idlib was to be preserved with the withdrawal of heavy arms and radicals from the region. Idlib is Syria's last opposition-held enclave.
Despite eight months of relative calm provided by the Sochi deal, the regime, backed by Moscow, intensified its attacks on April 26, under the pretext of fighting al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists holed up in Idlib. Since then, the situation has gotten worse, taking more civilian lives with each passing day.
The Idlib region is home to some 3 million people, almost half of whom have been displaced from other parts of Syria in the country's eight-year war. The violence since late April has killed more than 1,000 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and displaced more than 400,000 people, the U.N. says.
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