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UN envoy discusses new Syria constitution body with Iran, Turkey, Russia FMs

A general view shows a meeting among United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (2nd R) and foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Turkey Mohammad Javad Zarif, Sergei Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, respectively, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 18, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Turkey have held talks with the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on the composition of a Syrian constitutional committee.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian and Turkish counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, respectively, met in the Swiss city of Geneva with the outgoing UN envoy for Syria in Geneva on Tuesday.

The meeting between the foreign ministers of the three countries, as guarantors of the Syria peace process, and the UN diplomat could pave the way for the drafting of a new constitution and for elections after a nearly eight-year-old devastating war in Syria.

Speaking to reporters upon his arrival in Geneva, the Iranian foreign minister said he hoped to reach an agreement with Russia and Turkey on the setting up of the new constitutional committee in Syria.

When asked whether he expected a deal to be reached, Zarif said, "I hope so."

De Mistura, who is due to step down on December 31, has been making efforts since January to clinch an agreement on the identity of 150 members of a new constitutional committee to revitalize a stalled peace process in Syria.

The United Nations said in a statement on Friday that the Geneva talks will focus on setting up a "credible, balanced, and inclusive" committee to draft a new constitution for Syria and usher in elections.

It added that the meeting will take place ahead of de Mistura's monthly presentation to the UN Security Council set for December 20.

The committee is expected to include 150 members: 50 chosen by Damascus, 50 by the opposition and the final 50 by the UN envoy. It will also include civil society representatives, religious and tribal leaders, experts and women.

The UN-prepared list has already been rejected by Damascus, which is to draw up its own list, along with Russia, Iran and Turkey.The Syrian government has repeatedly said that it would only agree with some alteration to the current constitution, whereas the opposition is pushing for an entirely new constitution.

Even if the committee is finally established, analysts say the task of discussing a post-war constitution will be difficult.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

So far, 11 rounds of Syria peace talks, mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey, have been held in Astana. The 10th round of the discussions took place in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi back in July 30-31

Late in November, the guarantor states of the Astana peace process ended their 11th round of talks in the Kazakh capital, reiterating their strong commitment to Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Iran, Russia and Turkey also rejected "all desperate attempts" by foreign-backed militant groups to undermine the sovereignty of the Syrian nation.

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