New round of Syria peace talks on ‘national principles’ begins

New round of Syria peace talks on ‘national principles’ begins

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A new round of Syria peace talks started Monday in Geneva, in which representatives of the Bashar Assad regime, the opposition and civil society are expected to discuss “national principles.”

The talks are set to last for five days and will be followed by another round in January.

On Sunday, the eve of the latest round of talks in Geneva, Geir Pedersen, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, pushed for progress toward revising Syria's constitution and winding down the country's nine-year-old civil war.

“We hope that what we have achieved is actually the beginning of starting to build trust between the parties,” Pedersen said, as quoted by the Anadolu Agency (AA), adding that one of the topics of the talks will be principles for a new constitution.

Pedersen also expressed his hope to see progress, in his address to reporters during a virtual news conference.

A so-called constitutional committee made up of 45 people, with 15 delegates each representing the Syrian regime, the opposition and civil society, is meeting for the fourth time after months of little headway.

Hadi al-Bahra is heading the opposition, while Ahmad Kuzbari is representing the Syrian regime.

“After nearly 10 years of conflict, there is a deep lack of trust between the parties,” said Pedersen.

“We knew that we would have to overcome this deep mistrust. We knew that that would take time,” he said.

Pedersen said that the building of trust could then be a door to a broader political process.

“I'm looking forward to extensive and hopefully good discussions next week that will be able to bring us a little bit further down the road toward then starting the discussions in January on constitutional principles” at a fifth meeting, Pedersen was quoted by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) as saying.

He said he had been on a flurry of diplomatic visits in recent weeks, including trips to Damascus allies Tehran and Moscow as well as main opposition backer Ankara.

In recent weeks, Pedersen met with members of the Syrian regime and the opposition, held talks with Turkish authorities in Ankara, and held meetings with the Arab League secretary-general and the foreign ministers of Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

It is “important that we have clear international support for the work that we are doing, and I'm pleased to say that that has been forthcoming,” he said.

The constitutional committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later, but disagreement over the agenda and the coronavirus pandemic hindered further meetings until the third round in August that ended without concrete progress.

The fourth session was supposed to take place in October but was postponed over a lack of consensus on the agenda.

Endless rounds of U.N.-backed peace talks have failed to stem the bloodshed and in recent years have been largely overtaken by a parallel negotiations track led by Russia and Turkey.

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