UN envoy proposes forming team to draft new Syria constitution

Syria’s main opposition HNC leader Naser al-Hariri and UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura attend a round of negotiation, during the Intra Syria talks, in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

:: As the Geneva talks between Syria’s warring sides continue for a second day on Wednesday, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has proposed forming a team comprising civil society activists and technocrats aimed at creating a new constitution for the war-torn country.

The idea behind a more inclusive Syrian constitution is to stave off any legal vacuum in case the country undergoes a political transition, which is currently not part of the agenda at the peace talks in the Swiss city.

The talks between Syria’s warring sides is continuing in Geneva amid skepticism and lack of belief in any breakthroughs to end the six-year conflict.

The meetings were the sixth round of talks brokered by de Mistura. Both the Syrian government and opposition representatives met separately with the UN envoy after the start of the talks on Tuesday.

The Syrian opposition is expected to meet on Wednesday evening with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov for discussions on what has been agreed during the talks in Astana.

In early May, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on a deal in the Kazakh capital Astana over de-escalation zones.

De Mistura is still waiting for responses over his proposal to form a consultative mechanism to discuss the constitution. The UN envoy also rejects talking about any issue pertaining to transfer of power as he deems this as an hindrance for any progress.

Meanwhile, the opposition side attacked the Syrian regime, saying it is not serious. The opposition also pressed on de Mistura over the issue of political prisoners.

Damascus on Tuesday rejected US accusations that it carried out mass killings at a prison near Damascus and then burned the victims’ bodies in a crematorium, describing the allegations as “lies” and “fabrications.”

The allegations are a “new Hollywood plot” to justify US intervention in Syria, the Foreign Ministry said, noting what it called a US track record of using false claims as a pretext for military aggression.

Syrian opposition spokesman Salem Meslet said the US allegations about the use of a crematorium to cover up the mass killings were “credible” and not surprising.

Meslet, in Geneva for the talks, told al-Hadath that the government was known to move prisoners around from site to site for interrogations and, in some instances, “executions.”

Syrian activists, meanwhile, said government forces were escalating attacks on opposition-held areas protected under a recently brokered cease-fire.

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