UN envoy to Syria expects regime and opposition to resume talks
United Nations special envoy Geir Pedersen said on Wednesday he expected Bashar al-Assad regime and Syrian opposition committees to resume talks and draft constitutional reforms amid violence in the country continues.
Pedersen’s comments came as opposition activists reported regime shelling hit a fuel market in the northwest of the country, killing four people and sparking a huge fire.
Pedersen spoke to reporters in the capital of Damascus after meeting Syrian officials, including Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, about the country’s long conflict.
The talks last took place in Geneva in October when Pedersen said the Syrian regime’s refusal to negotiate over revisions to the country’s constitution was a key reason for their failure.
“I must say that after my discussions today, I am more optimistic that it will be possible to convene the seventh round of the drafting body of the constitutional committee, hopefully in March,” Pedersen said.
The Syrian conflict that began in March 2011 has killed half a million people and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including more than 5 million refugees, mostly in neighboring countries.
A 2012 UN roadmap for peace in Syria, endorsed by representatives of the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and the five permanent members of the Security Council, calls for the drafting of a new constitution. It culminates in UN-supervised elections in which all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, can participate. A Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 unanimously endorsed the roadmap.
Pedersen said he would meet with regime representative Ahmad Kuzbari later on Wednesday and then contact the opposition Syrian National Council, after which “we can send out an invitation.”
The October talks followed a nine-month break in UN-led Syrian constitutional committee meetings.
At a Syrian peace conference hosted by Russia in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. A smaller body of 45 members would do the actual drafting, including 15 members each from government, opposition and civil society. It took until September 2019 for the committee to be formed.
In the northwest of the country, Syrian regime shelling hit a fuel market on Wednesday, killing four people, injuring others and sparking a massive fire, an opposition war monitor and paramedics said.
The attack on the village of Tirmanin comes amid rising tensions near the last major opposition stronghold in northwestern Syria and two days after the regime’s shelling of a nearby village killed six people, including two children.
The opposition Syrian Civil Defense group, also known as the White Helmets, said four people were killed in Wednesday afternoon’s attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that four people had been killed, including two brothers, and three others injured.
The Idlib region is home to nearly 3 million people, two-thirds of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.
Nearly 75% of the total population of the opposition-held region of Idlib depends on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs, while 1.6 million people continue to live in camps or informal settlements , according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) mentioned.
For years, the Assad regime has ignored the needs and security of the Syrian people, aiming only for further territorial gains and crushing the opposition. To this end, the regime has for years bombed civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, displacing nearly half of the country’s population.
The situation for the people of Idlib worsened when the Assad regime, backed by Russia, launched an offensive on the province, causing the largest one-time displacement in the history of the Syrian civil war and an immense tragedy. humanitarianism, according to the UN.
The frequent shelling and shelling has put nearly 50% of health facilities out of action, just as the Syrian people need them most amid the coronavirus pandemic. Living in overcrowded tent camps or even in the open in safe areas near the Turkish border, many struggle to meet even the most basic needs.
The Idlib de-escalation zone was forged as part of an agreement between Turkey and Russia. The region has been subject to multiple ceasefire agreements, which have been frequently violated by the Assad regime and its allies.
A fragile truce was brokered between Moscow and Ankara in March 2020 in response to months of fighting by the Russian-backed regime. Nearly a million people have fled the Bashar al-Assad regime’s offensive, but the regime still frequently carries out attacks on civilians, preventing most from returning home and forcing them to remain in makeshift camps.