Syria constitutional talks stuck on first day of new round

FILE PHOTO:A man walks at a site of a bomb explosion in the town of Suluk, Syria November 10, 2019. REUTERS/Aboud Hamam

Damascus government delegates to a Syrian Constitutional Committee left the second U.N.-sponsored round before it began on Monday, in what opposition members said was a stalling tactic, and it was unclear whether talks would take place on Tuesday.

The talks are meant to be a step forward in what the United Nations says will be a long road to political rapprochement, followed by elections. 

But experts question whether President Bashar al-Assad will be willing to cede much in any negotiations after his Russian- and Iranian-back forces recaptured large areas of the country in offensives against rebels and militants since 2015.

Syrian television reported that the government delegation left the United Nations in Geneva on Monday because they did not get answers to their proposal to specify a work schedule. 

U.N. Special Envoy Geir Pedersen met the two co-chairs from the government and opposition sides and was continuing his consultations with a view to the panel’s resumption, a U.N. spokeswoman said. 

“The situation is clearly blocked,” a Western diplomat said.

The opening round of the first Syrian peace talks in more than a year went “better than most people would have expected”, Pedersen told reporters on Nov. 8 after an opening 10-day round. 

Forty-five delegates who form the committee’ drafting group arrived at the U.N. European headquarters on Monday.

The group is made up of 15 members each from the government, opposition and civil society but they did not meet together.