UN Syria envoy: constitutional committee will not be formed by year's end

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Thursday acknowledged that a committee tasked with writing a new constitution for the war-wracked country would not be in place by year's end as was hoped.

"We have nearly completed the work of putting in place a constitutional committee to draft a constitutional reform, as a contribution to the political process -- but there is an extra mile to go," De Mistura told the Security Council.

"I deeply regret what has not been achieved, and I am sorry more was not possible," he added, noting there were issues with a list of participants proposed by the government in Damascus.

According to the UN plan, the committee would have 150 members: 50 chosen by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, 50 by the opposition and 50 by the United Nations, the latter group made up of technical experts and representatives of civil society.

But Damascus blocked the composition of the third group, and recently suggested its own "17 name changes" to the list, according to a diplomat who asked not to be named.

Although Damascus' objection was backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the UN said the changes would alter the balance of the group and said it could only accept six of them.

"The United Nations, having examined the names, assessed that we would not feel comfortable yet giving the UN stamp of legitimacy to all 50 of them as meeting the necessary criteria of credibility and balance - hence the need for going an extra-mile," De Mistura said, calling some of those Syria had sought to exclude "natural bridge-builders."

While he failed to finalize the composition of the committee, De Mistura, who will leave the post next month, said "we have identified and put in place some of the key building blocks on which the future process can build."

More than 360,000 people have been killed in the war, which began in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad but has morphed into a complex conflict with myriad armed groups, many of whom are foreign-backed.