Members of Syria’s Constitutional Committee, tasked with amending their war-torn country’s constitution, met at the UN in Geneva on Monday for the first time since a failed attempt at talks last November.
Delegations from President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the opposition and civil society arrived at the United Nations in separate minivans, with all delegates wearing facemasks, to start a week of discussions.
Ahmad Al-Kuzbari, who is heading the government delegation, and Hadi Al-Bahra, leading up the opposition, both waved as they entered the building but delegates did not speak to reporters.
A UN spokeswoman confirmed shortly before noon that the week-long session had begun.
UN special envoy for Syria Gail Pedersen said Sunday he had met with co-chairs of the government and opposition delegations and with civil society representatives over the weekend.
“I am looking forward to a week of substantial discussions on the agenda and moving the process forward,” the Norwegian diplomat said on Twitter.
The full constitutional review committee is made up of 150 delegates divided equally three ways into government, opposition and civil society groups.
But only 15 members from each of those groups were due to take part in this week’s small-scale meeting.
The Constitutional Committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later.
A second round of talks, planned for late November, never got going after disagreement on the agenda prevented government and opposition negotiators from meeting.
Since then talks have been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.
The UN has been striving for more than nine years to try to help find a political resolution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 380,000 people and has displaced more than 11 million.
Constitutional review is a central part of the UN’s peace plan for Syria, which was defined by Security Council resolution 2254, adopted in December 2015.
Pedersen on Friday stressed the urgent need to build confidence between the parties.
He told reporters nobody expected “a miracle or a breakthrough”; rather the meeting is about looking towards identifying areas where progress might be made.