Following a round of talks in Geneva, Russia says the three guarantor states of the Syria peace process have reached a consensus with the United Nations on candidates for the country’s constitutional committee.
Russian President’s Special Representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday that representatives of Iran, Russia and Turkey had met the UN envoy and “agreed in principal” on the two lists of candidates for Syria’s constitutional body.
“We are moving on and we have made some progress. We have agreed in principal on the first two lists [of candidates for the Syrian constitutional committee] - one from the government and the other one from the opposition. Of course these two lists will require final approval by the representatives of the three guarantor states and Mr. Staffan de Mistura, after the final third list from the so-called civil society has been agreed on,” he said.
Lavrentyev also noted that a technical commission will be set up to accelerate the process of approving candidates for the constitutional committee.
“We need to speed up the process a bit, and for that purpose we have decided to create a technical group of experts, who will study all these questions and agree on certain names [of candidates from the civil society list] that would be acceptable for both the government and opposition,” he added.
The official further expressed hope that representatives of the three guarantor states could hold another meeting in Geneva within a month, stressing that the Russian delegation will continue consultations with the Iranian and Turkish partners.
“It is very important for us to ensure successful work of the Constitutional Committee so that it could yield visible results,” he said.
The Syrian government, Lavrentyev pointed out, “demonstrates readiness to help form the constitutional committee and launch its productive work.”
Additionally, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed the fresh agreement in the Geneva meeting on Syria’s constitutional committee.
“During the meeting, they discussed the formation of a constitutional committee and its codes of practice which constitute an important step in the struggle of finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” the ministry said in a statement.
It added that meetings between the three guarantors of the Astana peace process for Syria will continue.
Tehran, Moscow and Ankara have recently stepped up their diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syria crisis.
Last week, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani hosted his Russian and Turkish counterparts for a trilateral summit on Syria.
In a joint statement, the participants at the Tehran summit said the Syria crisis could only be resolved through a negotiated political process, and has no military solution.
‘Militants in Idlib should surrender’
Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrentyev said that Tuesday’s Geneva meeting had also focused on the situation in Idlib Province, the last remaining militant stronghold in Syria.
Anti-Damascus militants take part in combat training at an unknown location in the northern countryside of Idlib Province, Syria, September 11, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
Turkey, which backs some militant groups operating in Idlib, opposes an upcoming Syrian army liberation operation in the province fearing a fresh wave of refugees.
However, Iran and Russia strongly support the planned counter-terrorism battle in Idlib.
“It was noted that the situation there is really difficult and every effort is needed to spare civilians from suffering,” Lavrentyev said. “Fight against terrorist organizations must be continuous and none of those present at the meeting called it to question.”
He further emphasized that Turkey is responsible for separating Takfiri terrorists from other militants based in Idlib.
Russia, Turkey and Iran would agree on “scheme and mechanism” of the Idlib military camping, he said, adding that the situation will be settled in the Syrian province in a peaceful way if the militants surrender.
Separately on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister’s Special Assistant for Political Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari said that the Islamic Republic shares the UN concern about a potential humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib and will seek to avert it.
“We are also worried. We are going to work toward that not happening,” he said in Geneva.