Syrian rivals weigh UN plan for new constitution

GENEVA: Rival Syrian delegations on Wednesday weighed a UN proposal on developing a new constitution for the war-ravaged country, as a new round of peace talks entered a second day. The sixth round of UN-backed negotiations in Geneva is the latest drive to bring a political solution to the conflict which has claimed more than 320,000 lives since 2011. The talks opened with tensions high over a US charge that Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s government was using a prison crematorium to hide evidence of thousands of murdered detainees. Syria’s government delegation, led by Bashar al Jaafari, returned to UN headquarters on Wednesday afternoon for a meeting with talks mediator Staffan de Mistura.

They were expected to discuss his proposal to create a “consultative” committee of civil society activists and technocrats tasked with setting a road map to a new constitution. The team would begin work immediately on “specific options for constitutional drafting” in order to “prevent a constitutional or legal vacuum at any point during the political transition process being negotiated,” according to a copy of the document. Syrian government officials did not respond to requests for comment, but a source close to the delegation confirmed they had received the document.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has said it has “reservations” about the draft, which it are expected to discuss with de Mistura later on Wednesday. An opposition source said that the HNC had submitted a list of questions on the document to the UN, including on what “prerogatives” the new committee would have. — AFP