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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian Opposition to Meet UN Officials in New York

By Sirwan Kajjo September 23, 2019

A delegation of Syria's opposition has arrived in New York to hold talks with United Nations and world leaders about the Syrian crisis, a Syrian opposition official said Sunday.

Talks will largely focus on a constitutional committee the U.N. has been working on for nearly two years to help end the country's eight-year civil war, Ibrahim Biro, member of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee, told VOA.

"We will discuss with [U.N. officials] ways to move forward after the formation of the U.N.-sponsored constitutional committee from our viewpoint. We have shown willingness to," he said.

Constitutional committee

The proposed committee aims at amending or renewing the current Syrian constitution, in hopes to put an end to the ongoing conflict in the country.

The committee consists of 150 Syrians; 50 appointed by the U.N., 50 by the Syrian regime and 50 by the opposition. Later on, the 150 members will be reduced to 50.

The Syrian opposition's visit coincides with the U.N. General Assembly session, which will kick off on Tuesday. The Syrian conflict is expected to be widely discussed during the U.N. meeting.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced that a long sought after agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria.

U.N. special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen "is doing the final work with the parties in relation to the terms of reference, and we hope that this will be very soon concluded," Guterres said Wednesday during a press conference at U.N. headquarters.

Convincing Damascus

Pedersen is currently in Damascus to hold talks with Syrian government officials "over procedures and mechanisms of the constitutional committee and its members," according to the pro-Syrian government al-Watan newspaper.

Damascus also demands that consultations over the new constitution must be held among Syrians themselves, without direct involvement from outside entities something the U.N. has rejected.

Lack of trust

Some experts have expressed doubts over the U.N.'s ability to bring any viable solution to the Syrian conflict.

"Syrian people no longer have faith in U.N. initiatives on Syria," said Siruan Hadsch Hossein, a Syrian journalist who closely follows Syria peace talks.

"Such processes, assuming this one will be agreed by all sides, tend to be lengthy and complicated," he told VOA. "The current situation in Syria necessitates an immediate end of violence and a real approach to reconstruct the country."

Hossein noted that the constitutional committee is unlikely to fully succeed, "since there are many groups and fractions of Syrian society that are not represented in it."

Rights groups say more than 500,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. The U.N. says the conflict has also forced more than 5 million people to flee the country.

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