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    Lavrov, UN Envoy to Discuss Establishment of Syria's Constitutional Committee

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen is coming to Moscow following his first visit to Damascus on 15-18 January, where he met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and later described the meeting as "constructive."

    The UN envoy also met with the opposition Syrian Negotiation Committee (SNC) in Riyadh, pledging to work with both Syrian parties to "build confidence and advance Geneva political process."

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday, commenting on Pedersen's upcoming visit, that Moscow was interested to hear the UN envoy's position on the Syrian constitutional committee, meant to draft the country's new constitution.

    The agreement to establish the committee was reached at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which was held in the Russian resort city of Sochi in January 2018. However, the parties involved have so far failed to agree on the composition of the body. The body is expected to include the representatives of the Syrian government, opposition and the civil society.

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    Following a November meeting on Syria in the Kazakh capital city of Astana, then-UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura regretted the lack of progress in overcoming "the ten-month stalemate on the composition of the constitutional committee."

    After a meeting with de Mistura in Geneva on 18 December, the guarantor countries of the Astana peace process — Russia, Turkey and Iran — agreed to intensify efforts to make sure that the first meeting of the body would be held in early 2019.

    Meanwhile, Moscow has registered attempts by the so-called small group on Syria, led by the United States, to impede the creation of the Syrian constitutional committee, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said earlier in January. In particular, Ryabkov stressed that Russia has been "watching attempts by the so-called small group on Syria, headed by the United States, to hinder this process and to change the membership of the constitutional committee". The Russian diplomat also said that "this causes deep regret."

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    The small group on Syria brings together Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and United States. Since the beginning of last year, members of the group have been regularly meeting in a bid to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

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    Since 2017 Russia has been one of the three guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria. The Russian armed forces have been providing military assistance to Damascus throughout the conflict, while also carrying out regular humanitarian operations across the war-torn country. Moscow is now assisting Damascus in the post-war reconstruction and the return of refugees.

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    Tags:
    draft constitution, meeting, Syrian Constitutional Committee, UN, Geir Pedersen, Sergei Lavrov, Syria, Russia
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