Turkey and Russia play an important role in the Syrian conflict that has been going on for nearly nine years, especially when all 15 countries involved are supporting different parties, former U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said late Monday.
"When there is a problem, we will have to rely on Russia and Turkey to convince the two sides not to break," said the former envoy in an interview with broadcaster CNN. Indicating that some countries in particular have a lot of influence in the conflict, de Mistura stated that the Russia and Iran had influence on the Bashar Assad regime and Turkey on the opposition.
Although Russia is not the main country behind the idea of a constitutional committee, it is one of the guarantor countries that paved the way for it. 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 the committee.
Regarded as the most essential step in reaching a political solution in the war-torn country, the 150-member committee – formed of opposition, regime and civil society members – was mandated, within the context of a U.N.-facilitated Geneva process, to prepare and draft constitutional reforms.
Calling the talks "significant," de Mistura continued: "They met once when I was there in Geneva; they did not talk to each other but at least they didn't fight among themselves. But this time they have been talking and they are co-chairs." He was referring to the constructive dialogues held in Geneva Monday by the 45-member body, tasked with drafting a new constitution for Syria.
Upon the question as to why the talks were just starting to become fruitful and had not been earlier, the former envoy said: "Life is full of one ruling, which is timing. There were only four names missing last year, so we could have perhaps done it last year but those four names were not agreed upon. It took one year of patient negotiations by Geir Pedersen to get those four names agreed upon." He added that the regime was not ready and wanted to be part of a stronger solution while the opposition wanted to have better assurances.
According to the plan, once the draft is ready and proposed to the larger committee, a 75% consensus is needed for it to be approved. The committee is seen as the key in 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. The meeting, with support from powers backing both sides, marks the first political negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition.
"The Syrian people are very proud people, both the regime and the opposition, they are still Syrians. They do not really like to be told what to do and how to do it," de Mistura added.
The regime's uncooperative stance has been observed for months. Many pundits expect the regime may quit the talks with the confidence it gains from military achievements in the field. The main problem for the regime is thought to be the necessity to compromise, perhaps to the point of coming up with a new constitution and eventually giving up existing authority. Yet, pundits also suggest that the presence of Russia as a pressure point may cause the regime to comply with the committee and conform to the process as a whole.
While opposition members seek an entirely new constitution, which might cause a change in the country's leadership, the regime demands only some changes to the already existing one.