UN Envoy Says ‘Common Ground’ Emerging In Syria Constitution Talks

The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria says there is “some common ground” among Russia, Iran, and Turkey about how to move forward on writing a new constitution for war-torn Syria, RFERL reports. Staffan de Mistura made the statement on June 19 after representatives from the three countries and other parties held what he called substantive talks on setting up a constitutional commission.

More talks are scheduled in coming weeks, he said.

“During the meeting, constructive exchanges and substantive discussions took place on issues relevant to the establishment and functioning of a constitutional committee, and some common ground is beginning to emerge,” de Mistura said following the talks in Geneva.

The parties are trying to find a way to bring an end to the seven-year conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands and nearly torn the country apart. Meanwhile, Syria’s Foreign Ministry condemned Turkish military forces, who started patrols around the northern Syrian city of Manbij a day earlier. Manbij is held by a U.S.-backed alliance dominated by a Kurdish militia considered by Ankara to be “terrorists.” Turkey has threatened to attack the city outright.

According to Reuters, De Mistura has a mandate from the U.N. Security Council to forge a political agreement between Syria’s warring sides, including a new constitution and new elections. A congress of Syrian activists held in the Russian resort of Sochi in January gave him the task of setting up a committee to draft a new constitution. He promised at the time to consult widely on the membership, which would be unlikely to exceed 50.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has sent the U.N. a list of nominees and Syria’s opposition is expected to follow suit soon. The meeting brought together the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Undersecretary Sedat Onal, Russia’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev and the Iranian foreign minister’s Special Assistant in Political Affairs Hossein Jaber Ansari.

De Mistura plans to meet senior officials from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, France, Britain and Germany next week, and expects the Iranian, Russian and Turkish officials to return for more talks in the next few weeks “to widen the common ground”, the statement said.