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The UN envoy for Syria announced that the Syrian government and the opposition have agreed to start drafting constitutional reforms for the war-torn country

BEIRUT – The Syrian government and the opposition in the war-torn country have agreed to start drafting constitutional reforms, the UN envoy to Syria said on Sunday, a major step after a nine-month hiatus in talks and several unsuccessful rounds.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, did not say what is behind the deal or give details of what will follow. Drafting sessions officially begin Monday.

Pedersen on Sunday met with the co-chairs of a committee that includes figures from President Bashar Assad’s government for the fourth term, as well as exiles and representatives of civil society. The two met for the first time to discuss how to proceed and plans for the week ahead, Pedersen said.

Thirty representatives divided between the two parties, as well as 15 members of civil society, will meet Pedersen in Geneva until Friday.

“I have negotiated between the parties to build consensus on how we are going to move forward. I am very happy to say that we have reached such a consensus, ”Pedersen told reporters, calling on all parties to keep the spirit up.

“My appeal to the 45 (members) is that we work as we agreed and now start the process of drafting the constitutional committee,” he said.

The latest round of talks ended in January with no progress. Pedersen announced at the end of September an agreement on the “methodology” for a sixth round. It is based on three pillars: respect for the rules of procedure, the submission of texts of “fundamental constitutional principles” before the meeting, and regular meetings of the co-chairs with him before and during the meeting.

At a Syrian peace conference hosted by Russia in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a committee of 150 members to draft a new constitution.

After the fifth round of negotiations failed in late January, Pedersen hinted that the Syrian government delegation was to blame for the lack of progress.

The United States and several Western allies accused Assad of deliberately delaying and delaying the drafting of a new constitution until after the presidential elections to avoid a UN-supervised vote, as requested by the Security Council .

At the end of May, Assad was re-elected in what the government called a landslide for a fourth seven-year term. The West and its opposition called the election illegitimate and a sham.

Pedersen said the need for “real intra-Syrian dialogue” would have been discussed recently by Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, “and through that, a real process of Syrian political reform.”

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ABC News

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