Syrian FM insists 'no deadlines' on constitution committee

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


Syria's foreign minister told the UN Saturday that "no deadlines" should be imposed on a constitution-writing committee formed to try to find a political settlement to the country's civil war.

Walid Muallem's comments came after the United Nations released a document showing that the new committee is mandated to either amend Syria's current constitution or write an entirely fresh one.

The UN hopes the committee will help end a war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since erupting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

The document adds that once the process of drafting the constitution is completed, "free and fair elections" will be held in Syria under the supervision of the world body.

The committee, announced earlier this week, was negotiated by the UN's envoy to the war-torn country, Geir Pedersen, and has been accepted by the Syrian regime and opposition.

Muallem told the UN General Assembly Saturday that while the government of President Bashar al-Assad welcomed the committee, "no deadlines or timetables must be imposed" on it.

"The whole process should be owned and led by Syrians themselves who have the exclusive right of determining their country's future without any foreign intervention or interference," he said.

"No preconditions must be imposed on the committee, nor should its recommendations be prejudged," Muallem added.

A first meeting of the committee, which took almost two years to negotiate, has been scheduled for October 30 in Geneva, the UN document said.

The body will be made up of 150 members, split evenly between the Syrian government, opposition and Syrian civil society.