Syria: Consultations on Political Developments
On Tuesday (31 May), Council members will convene for closed consultations on the political situation in Syria. UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen is expected to brief via videoconference.
Pedersen is likely to update members on the eighth round of Syria’s Constitutional Committee, which is scheduled to take place between 28 May and 3 June in Geneva. Pedersen’s briefing will take place before the final day of the session, when the parties are expected to discuss their amendments to proposals on constitutional principles. Discussion of amendments has been a sticking point in past rounds. Following the conclusion of the Constitutional Committee’s seventh round (held between 21 and 25 March), which failed to achieve meaningful progress, Pedersen said, “I will do everything I can to bring closer viewpoints among the members through exerting my good offices”.
While there is general support for the Constitutional Committee’s work, several Council members have expressed frustration with the lack of progress since its launch over two and a half years ago. Some members—such as Albania, Ireland and the P3 (France, the UK and the US)—tend to accuse the Syrian government of not engaging in the process in good faith. On the other hand, Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has cautioned against imposing artificial deadlines on the committee’s work.
Pedersen may also discuss his recent trip to Damascus, during which he met with Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad on 22 May. In a press encounter after the meeting, Pedersen indicated that they had discussed a range of issues, including the Constitutional Committee’s work, the humanitarian challenges facing Syria, and the 30 April general amnesty declared by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Members may be interested in learning more about Pedersen’s meeting with Mekdad.
Regarding the general amnesty, the decree issued by Assad states that it pertains to “terrorist crimes committed by Syrians prior to 30 April 2022, excluding crimes leading to the death of a human being”. Some members might seek more clarity on details of the amnesty, including what constitutes “terrorist crimes”, who is eligible for the amnesty, the number of people released to date, and whether there are assurances of ongoing protections for them. Pedersen has said that the “amnesty has potential”, adding that “we are looking forward to see[ing] how it develops”.
Council members may also want an update from Pedersen on his efforts to promote a “step by step, step for step” process, whereby he is asking the Syrian government, the opposition, regional states, and other stakeholders what concessions they might make in exchange for reciprocal actions from others on matters such as: abductees, detainees, and missing persons; humanitarian assistance and early recovery projects; conditions for dignified, safe and voluntary refugee returns; and the restoration of socioeconomic conditions.
It appears that there will be a Security Council Arria-formula meeting on “Syrian Women’s Voices on Detainees and the Disappeared in Syria” on 3 June. The meeting is being organised by the US, together with Albania and the UK, with additional co-sponsors Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey and in partnership with the Syrian Negotiations Commission (that is, the opposition).