New Syrian Constitution Talks stuck on Further Agenda

Geneva. After a second week of talks on Syria’s new constitution no consensus was reached on how to proceed with the smaller committee of 45 delegates assigned to negotiate the new constitution, United Nations special envoy Geir Pedersen told the press, “We have been trying to reach consensus but as I said we are not there yet.”

In October the constitutional committee started with 150 members – 50 delegates from the Syrian government, 50 delegates from the Syrian opposition and 50 from civil society – and was tasked with agreeing on an agenda of principles for the new constitution which the smaller committee of 45 delegates – again equally divided – would draft. As the talks ended and no consensus was reached on constitutional reform and the constitutional principles, delegates of the opposition and the Syrian government blamed each other of stalling and for the failure to reach consensus.

Considered by international diplomats a step forward for war-torn Syria, political experts expect limited result from the Geneva talks. Summarizing expert views, the Syrian opposition sticks to demands which were realistic in and with the situation on the ground in the early stages of the Syrian uprising but have become unrealistic now that the Syrian regime, with the help of Russia and Iran, has taken back a lot of Syrian territory and is back stronger in the saddle than ever since the start of the war. On the other side, the Syrian president al-Assad, knowing he is stronger than ever, does not consider the Geneva talks binding, feels stronger now that the US has made retreating movements and is using the delegation representing the Syrian government in Geneva only as a vehicle to stall time but gaining some international goodwill from potential financial donors. The Syrian president realizes that his Russian and Iranian backers alone do not have the financial means to rebuild Syria and he needs the Geneva window to reach the deep pockets of the international community and re-enter the domain of international relations.

The international community and especially the European Union, need the UN-led talks to have an international acknowledge platform to which they can politically conform and which would somewhat weaken the power of the Syrian regime, after international and regional powers conclude the current geopolitical quagmire and have agreed upon a solution for peace. As long as there is no agreement between the international and regional (super)powers active in Syria, the Syrian regime will strengthen its hold on the country which makes real political concessions by Syria and its backers Russia and Iran harder.

Syriac representation in Geneva

Syriacs at the Geneva talks are represented by two delegates from the Assyrian Democratic Organization and one delegate from the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs). The ADO-delegation belongs to opposition camp and the WCA delegation is present as part of the civil society camp. There is no Syriac delegation aligned to the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North & East Syria i.e. no representation from the peoples of the DAA was allowed in Geneva. Turkey as one of the backers of the Astana talks blocked any participation and representation by parties and organization aligned to the Democratic Autonomous Administration.

After the first week of talks Gabriel Mushe, ADO head of foreign affairs and delegate to Geneva, confirmed in a mid-November interview with NPA Agency that their Syriac-Assyrian delegation did not gain access to the smaller constitutional committee of 45 delegates. Although it was the first time the Syrian government and the opposition sat together in one room, Mushe said on the (future) achievements of the Constitutional committee: “the Commission has been much delayed, because of “stalling and disruption by the regime, who from the start did not want to join the Constitutional committee in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254, but only coerced and compelled by his allies, mainly the Russians.” … “We do not think the Constitutional committee will give much result, but we consider it a step, a start and a key to finding a political solution and the implementation of all the provisions of resolution 2254, in parallel with the work of the Constitutional committee.”

Nazira Goreya, Syriac Union Party co-chair of the executive committee of the Gozarto (Jazeera) region of the DAA, told SyriacPress her party doesn’t expect real outcomes from the Geneva talks, “Although UN-presided, the Geneva committee is based on previous Russian-Turkish-Iranian negotiations and agreements and is way from inclusive. And our Autonomous Administration is, willingly and consciously, left out by the three supporting powers. This is not how the people of Syria should be represented. Why does only a small select group out of the 150 Geneva delegates really get to draft the new constitution? And why do the Syrian regime delegates have predominance there? I’m afraid the Geneva talks won’t bring us real change. Our view on Geneva is one of a mere stalling of time to give the regime the time to take back territory and control. Just as Astana and Sochi were. If regional and international powers see Syria merely as a proxy stage to pursuit and reel in personal interests, nothing will change on the ground in Syria.”