The United Nations announced Monday the long-awaited creation of a constitution-writing committee on Syria that will include the government and opposition, but it remained to be seen if the step could finally end the civil war.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the committee as the first step toward finding a political settlement to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people in more than eight years of fighting.
But experts encouraged caution, questioning how much it is likely to achieve with Russian-backed President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power appearing to get stronger and stronger with each passing month.
“I firmly believe that the launching of a Syrian-organized and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee can be the beginning of a political path towards a solution,” Guterres told reporters.
He said on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York that his envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, would bring the committee together in the coming weeks.
The committee is to include 150 members — a third picked by the regime, an equal number by the opposition, and the remaining third by the United Nations.
“While much work remains to be done, this is an encouraging step toward reaching a political solution to the Syrian conflict,” the US State Department said, while demanding that Assad “accept the will of the Syrian people to live in peace.”
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the announcement and said it “gives back hope to the Syrians.”
“We look forward to the inaugural meeting of the Constitutional Committee at the earliest possible opportunity and expect that this should represent the start of a process ultimately leading to peace that Syrians so clearly need and deserve,” she said in a statement.
The UN first backed the idea of a committee at a conference hosted by Russia in January 2018 but Assad’s government delayed over the makeup of the body.
Monday’s announcement came after Guterres said last week that an agreement had been reached concerning “the composition of the committee.”
Arguments over who would take on which roles on the body also delayed the process. A sticking point had been the 50 members selected by the UN.