Syrian Government And Opposition Agree To Continue Working For New Constitution

Antonio Broto

Geneva, Nov 8 (EFE) .- The Syrian government and opposition ended today the first round of negotiations to draft a new constitution with the commitment to meet again in Geneva in two weeks, despite showing that there are still very difficult obstacles to overcome between both parties.

"These have been sometimes very painful discussions, but they have had the courage to sit face to face and listen to each other," summarized the UN special envoy for Syria, the Norwegian Geir Pedersen, after a week of meetings of 45 delegates (15 from the government, 15 from the opposition and 15 from civil society).

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In this first week the parties presented what they hope to include in the new Constitution – even without confirming whether it will be a completely new text or an amendment of the current one, approved in 2012 – without submitting their ideas to debate, explained the leader of the opposition delegation Hadi Albahra

Both he and the representative of the Syrian president's regime, Bachar al Asad, Ahmad Kuzbari, stressed that one of the few points in common is that the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria must be preserved, but clashed with the idea of ​​including the Fight against terrorism as one of the principles of the new Constitution.

"There are big differences about the definition that each one has of what terrorism is," said Albahra, who stressed that "for example, for the Syrian government I am a terrorist" even though he and his fellow delegates have never served of weapons and have condemned groups such as the Islamic State (IS) or Al Nusra, the Syrian faction of Al Qaeda.

Albahra exemplified the still latent confrontation between government and opposition these days in Geneva by explaining that during the negotiations the Al Asad delegation came to accuse the 15 members of civil society of 'representing foreign forces' and the 15 opponents of' terrorists '.

He added that not only the fight against terrorism must be taken into account in a future Constitution and in the negotiations around it, but also 'the causes that have led to it, such as lack of economic opportunities, despotism or lack of political freedom '.

The rhetoric of the Syrian Government is to consider all those rebel groups that have risen in arms since 2011 and those who have supported them as terrorists.

The opposition leader Nasr al Hariri, also present at this week's negotiations, lamented that while the current meetings are taking place 'the conflict has increased again in northern Syria and civilians are targets of the regime's forces'.

"Cities like Idleb or Aleppo are attacked by air forces or artillery (of the Syrian Army) under the pretext of fighting terrorism," Al Hariri said.

From the government delegation, Kuzbari argued that the issue of terrorism 'is basic because we have suffered it in recent years and we cannot stop discussing it, it is necessary to find a common point of view around this to build trust.'

He added that it is also essential to defend territorial sovereignty against a 'Turkish occupation' in the northeast that is 'plundering our country'.

Despite the accusations, they did not reach the tone of past attempts at peace negotiations for Syria that ended up failing and Pedersen considered that the beginning of the constitutional process has been 'better than expected'.

The Norwegian diplomat also expressed his confidence that the Constitutional Committee will continue to debate without pressure from international actors: 'We hope they will keep their distance and let them do their job, something that they have done very well so far.'

Pedersen insisted that the current negotiations and the Constitution that could come out of them 'are not the solution to the conflict' but are part of the peace plan defined by the UN Security Council, which includes the holding of free elections and supervised by The international community

The delegations did not set a deadline to finalize the drafting of the constitutional text, aware that the disagreements are very large.

"We have already lived nine rounds of negotiations in Geneva, 13 in Astana, and now this first for a Constitution, so we are not going to set deadlines," Al Hariri said with some skepticism. EFE

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