Council to Adopt Presidential Statement on the Syrian Constitutional Committee
Today (8 October) the Security Council is expected to adopt a short presidential statement welcoming the Secretary-General’s 23 September announcement of the agreement of the Syrian government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission for “a credible, balanced, and inclusive Constitutional Committee” that is facilitated by the UN in Geneva. The US-drafted text, which appears to have been discussed first among the permanent members, was circulated to the full Council last Thursday (3 October) with a request for comments by Friday (4 October). Some minor edits, largely of a technical nature, were incorporated into a revised draft that passed silence yesterday morning (7 October).
In the draft statement, the Council determines that “the launch of the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee should be the beginning of the political process to end the Syrian conflict in line with resolution 2254 (2015) that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians”. It further expresses its appreciation for UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen’s diplomatic engagement with the parties to finalise the agreement and emphasises its strong support for the initiative of Pedersen and the UN to convene the first meeting of the Committee in Geneva on 30 October. The statement reaffirms that there is no military solution to the Syria conflict, which can only be resolved through the full implementation of resolution 2254. Finally, it reaffirms the Council’s strong commitment to the “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria”.
It seems that the negotiations on the presidential statement were relatively straightforward. There is widespread agreement that the formation of the constitutional committee is a positive development, although members have noted that this is only the first step in a political process that should lead to free and fair elections under UN supervision. Other issues that many members note need to be addressed for Syria to have a peaceful future include, among other things, unfettered humanitarian access, a cessation of hostilities, the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the threat of terrorism.
Pedersen and several Council members have viewed the release of detainees and abductees and information about missing persons as confidence-building measures that could help energise the political process. In this respect, three Council members—the Dominican Republic, Peru and Poland—requested that language be incorporated in the draft presidential statement indicating that the Constitutional Committee’s work “must be accompanied by additional actions to build trust and confidence in the [political] process”. Many members supported this proposal. However, this amendment did not share the unanimous support of the Council, and it was not taken on board.
No political briefing on Syria is currently scheduled in the Council in October. Pedersen is expected to meet separately with the two co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee (one nominated by the government, the other by the opposition) prior to the 30 October launch of the committee in Geneva.