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Syria: Formation of Constitutional Committee Initiates 'Normalization Battle' With Damascus

Syria: Formation of Constitutional Committee Initiates 'Normalization Battle' With Damascus

Sunday, 6 October, 2019 - 09:15
UN envoy Geir Pedersen (AFP)

The formation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and its rules of action put forward the battle of normalization with Damascus and the restoration of legitimacy to the Syrian regime, between Russia's rush to bring Syria back to the Arab family on one hand, and US's adherence to “isolating” Damascus on the other.

Last month, UN envoy Geir Pedersen and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem agreed on the list of 150 candidates for the Constitutional Committee and its rules.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the “political achievement” and declared the committee’s first meeting in Geneva on October 30.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Asharq Al-Awsat that the breakthrough came based on the decision of the Syrian National Dialogue Conference in Sochi, and within achievements of the three Astana guarantor countries: Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

Lavrov said he welcomes the formation of the constitutional committee, pointing out that progress on the political track will address the need for Syria to return to the “Arab family,” which namely depends on Saudi Arabia’s position.

Moallem said after an accidental meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in New York, that the Arab League should return to Syria “to become Arab.”

Aboul Gheit said that the time has not come for Syria to return to the Arab League.

“Not yet...This answer still holds in the Arab arena, even though [several] Arab countries have restored their relations with Syria and opened embassies there. The collective Arab will has not yet arrived at the moment when it announces that we have no problem with the regime in Syria,” said Arab League Sec-Gen.

He said when matters stabilize and the new Syria sets out on its path: “I anticipate its return to its seat in the Arab League. There is a most important matter - that the new Syria will not fall into the arms of Iran. This is a central Arab condition that will allow Syria to return to the Arab League."

Meanwhile, US Syria Envoy Ambassador James Jeffrey urged the Arab League to confront any efforts to bring the Assad regime back before meeting the criteria set out in Resolution 2254.

He added that any attempt to welcome the Assad regime again in the League, or the resumption of relations with it, would undermine the collective efforts to move towards a lasting, peaceful and political solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

US and UK led efforts to install elements of the political situation through a meeting of foreign ministers in New York including Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and the US.

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and UN Envoy Pederson also called for a meeting on the sidelines of the UN Assembly General Assembly.

The countries welcomed the UN’s declaration that “an agreement was reached with all concerned parties to form a credible, balanced, comprehensive, Syria-owned and Syria-led constitutional committee.”

They described it as a “long-awaited positive step”, which still requires a serious commitment and a pledge to deliver promises to succeed.

The countries reiterated the importance of providing a suitable and neutral environment for the political process that enables Syrians of holding free, credible and fair elections, under the auspices of the United Nations, in a way that allows the participation of displaced citizens, refugees, and migrants.

They also confirmed their support to all efforts to hold all violators of international humanitarian law and international human rights law accountable, including those responsible for crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that his country has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon in May in an attack on Latakia.

“Today I am announcing that the United States has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on 19 May,” Pompeo said.

UK supported the US’ position in imposing new sanctions on Syrian entities.

So far, there have been no fundamental changes in the positions of European countries and the US on the conditions of “normalizing” relations with Damascus, “legitimizing the regime”, and contributing to the reconstruction of Syria.

However, some European countries are concerned about this matter, especially after Hungary announced the opening of its embassy in Damascus, which prompted the call for meetings before the European Ministerial Meeting in Brussels mid-month.

Meanwhile, France presented a document that set four conditions for the “restoration of legitimacy”, and the recognition of the results of the elections, including “full UN supervision” on the parliamentary elections next year, and the presidential one in 2021.

Paris proposed four principles for accepting the polls, such as: establishing confidence-building measures on the ground, to create an atmosphere to ensure that the electoral process is credible.

It also wants guarantees that ensure the safe access of internally displaced people and refugees to polling stations.

Third, France wants concessional legal and practical conditions for the pluralistic voting, especially with 12 million refugees and internally displaced people in Syria, adding that it is crucial that all Syrian diaspora citizens can vote, and have the right to stand in the upcoming elections.

Finally, the paper conditions the United Nations’ supervision of the elections to provide strict neutrality in the electoral process and prevent any form of manipulation.

The document stated the position of the European Union countries, and that they are fully prepared to play their role in the reconstruction of Syria, in the event of a real comprehensive political transition, based on Security Council resolution 2254.

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