UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed during talks in Moscow on Friday that Syria’s constitutional committee should start functioning soon.
Pedersen said there had been progress on the committee and he was thankful to Russia for that.
"I'm very pleased that now we seem to be closer to establishing the constitutional committee,” Pedersen said.
For his part, Lavrov said: "In our conviction, the decisive step towards the beginning of this [political] process [led by the Syrians themselves with UN assistance] will be the completion of the formation of the constitutional committee, which I think will be able to start its work in the very near future.”
According to observers, the progress they mentioned is the outcome of Russia’s continuous pressure on the Syrian regime.
They said more details on the committee’s make-up is expected to be revealed during Pedersen’s visit to Damascus next week.
However, the statements made by the two men reflected cautiousness in issuing any final assessment concerning Friday’s talks.
Lavrov focused on his country’s support to Pedersen’s efforts towards holding deeper talks with Damascus, while the UN envoy was attached to his previous stands, saying, “What is crucial is Russia’s active support of the UN political effort toward ensuring a comprehensive political solution that is Syrian owned and led, in line with Security Council Resolution 2254."
The 150-member committee will be tasked with drafting a constitution for post-war Syria, a key development towards ending the eight-year conflict.
Concerning the situation in Idlib, Pedersen on Friday urged Russia to help stabilize the violence in the province.
He expressed hope that Moscow and Ankara could help reduce tensions there.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” the envoy said. “I hope that the cooperation between Russia and Turkey will help to stabilize the situation in Idlib.”
Statements delivered by the two officials did not reveal any differences on political issues.
Russian political sources were interested in showing “Moscow’s success in achieving progress at the level of the constitutional committee,” without tackling controversial issues.
Russian analyst Andrei Ontikov said that the Syrian opposition is not willing to complete the formation of the committee.
He said the US and some European countries do not want to solve disputes on the make-up of the committee.
Russia’s Kommersant daily quoted sources as saying that during the trip of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin and Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev to Damascus last month, the "4+2" formula was developed, and Syrian officials agreed with it.
Under the agreement, Damascus will offer four names on the list from the civil society category, while the UN will offer two.