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Russia on Sochi's Outputs: Constitutional Committee Approved by Assad

Russia on Sochi's Outputs: Constitutional Committee Approved by Assad

Monday, 25 December, 2017 - 11:45
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Bashar Assad in Sochi in November. (Reuters)

Russia decided on the outcomes of the Syrian National Dialogue Conference in Sochi at the end of next month and its relation with the Geneva negotiations. The participants agree to form the Constitutional Committee in Sochi with the possibility of holding the first meeting of the committee members under with an international support in Geneva.

However, Russia insists on Bashar al-Assad signing the decree of establishing the Constitutional Committee.

Ever since "Syrian dialogue" had been discussed, the location had been issue whether to hold it at Russian base in Hameim or Damascus International Airport. In addition, the dialogue's sponsor changed from the Russian Defense Ministry to a partnership with the Russian Foreign Ministry.

However, two things remain the same for Russia: the legitimacy of Syria and the largest political and popular participants, and the international legitimacy with the participation of the United Nations and linking the outcome of the conference to the Geneva process and Resolution 2254.

As for the "first legitimacy", Moscow expanded the circle of invited candidates from 1,000 to 1,500 and 2,000 politicians, deputies, local council members, political parties, unions and representatives of military factions included in the "reduction of escalation" and "reconciliations" agreements.

In the light of the agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the intelligence services in Moscow and Ankara will work to approve the list of invitees so that the Turkish side will ensure that there is no representation or indirect representation of the Kurdish National Union and People's Protection Unit, which Ankara considers part of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

This indicates that the relationship between "People Protection Units" is limited by Moscow to military and war on terrorism, which was manifested in the formation of a joint operations room in war against ISIS in Deir Ez-Zour.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has declared that its military presence and its five bases east of the Euphrates River in northeast Syria are linked to a "political achievement" in the Geneva negotiations.

Trump also signed an executive resolution to provide about $400 million to arm the Syrian Democratic Forces, which angered Erdogan, especially that Trump promised earlier this month not to supply the forces with weapons and the withdrawal of heavy weapons after Raqqa had been cleansed from ISIS.

Currently, there are two tracks: the first is the Russia-backed Geneva course, and the second is the path of Astana-Sochi, which is being conducted with a Russian, Turkish, and Iranian "guarantee" to discuss military matters, de-escalation all the way to Sochi's political aspect.

UN Envoy Stephane de Mistura is currently under considerable pressure from Russia to attend Sochi.

Few days ago, he met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow conditioning his attendance with achieving progress in Geneva talks and the process initiation of constitutional reform. Moscow will "pressure" Damascus to negotiate with the High Negotiation Committee on the constitution, elections, and the 12 principles on Syria's future.

However, according to information, Russia took its decision to announce "Constitutional Committee" at the Syrian dialogue in Sochi and form a higher council of the conference.

Russian officials reiterated that it is important for Assad to sign a decree on forming the "Committee" with Moscow's approval to leave the members choice of either form a new constitution or amending the current constitution of 2012.

Damascus delegation insisted on the "Constitutional Committee", which can include 21 members, and the "constitutional reform" process should be done through the legislative committee of the current parliament based on the 2012 Constitution.

The delegation also wanted to prepare for early parliamentary elections as of next year and not wait for the preassigned a date in 2020. It also insisted on a second round of Sochi talks in Damascus while holding the majority of the Constitutional Committee.

In order to persuade de Mistura to attend Sochi Conference, Moscow supported the idea of holding the first meeting of the Constitutional Commission in Geneva and discuss President Putin's suggestion to adopt a new constitution in preparation for parliamentary and presidential elections under international supervision under Resolution 2254.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US informed the Russian side of two conditions: one session of Sochi Conference and support for Geneva process.

To test Moscow's intentions and influence on Damascus and Tehran, de Mistura called for a ninth round of Geneva negotiations on January 21, a week before Sochi conference, hoping that the Damascus delegation would enter into serious negotiations on the constitution.

Notably, Geneva's date will coincide with a Russian-Turkish-Iranian meeting to "screen" the list of guests to the Russian resort.

High Negotiation Committee entered a heated debate at a meeting of its members in Riyadh to take a political decision whether to attend Sochi meetings or not, especially after Moscow stipulated that the participants in the conference should accept Assad, meaning the opposition would have recant its statement of last month which said that Assad should leave upon the beginning of the transition phase.

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