Could Reviving the Constitutional Committee Shift the Regime’s Behavior?
Feb 27, 2024 573

Could Reviving the Constitutional Committee Shift the Regime’s Behavior?

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The United Nations’ Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, is stepping up efforts to revive the Syrian Constitutional Committee, the last round of which was held in mid-2022. However, Russia is contining to to block his efforts to carry on the discussions in Geneva. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed at the Middle East Conference of the Valdai Club think tank in mid-February that the committee would not meet in Geneva, as Moscow does not trust it as a neutral mediator to settle international disputes. The Kremlin is hoping that a new location will soon be agreed upon where the committee can meet, ideally in an Arab country.

Meanwhile, the Syrian regime has proposed to the Special Envoy that the committee meet in Baghdad, after efforts to convene it in the capital of the Sultanate of Oman faltered. The Arab Ministerial Liaison Committee, at its first meeting in Cairo in mid-August last year, had tabled the proposal of a ninth round in Muscat, and agreed to form an expert contact group at the expert level to follow this up and prepare for a second meeting, to be held in Baghdad. However, the Liaison Committee’s efforts were not successful, and nor did the Secretary-General of the League persuade Oman to host the Constitutional Committee.

The Arab Ministerial Liaison Committee did not hold its second meeting, scheduled to take place in Baghdad within six months of the first, and there are no indications that it is likely to do so before the 161st session of the Council of the Arab League, at which the committee is supposed to submit a report on its work.

The Jordanian Amman, however, hosted a meeting of the interior ministers of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Syrian regime on February 17. Its agenda was limited to discussing “joint efforts to combat drugs” and “strengthening areas of security cooperation in the region.” However, the Amman meeting appeared to be compensation for the Liaison Committee’s failure to hold its second meeting, possibly indicating that Russia could propose resuming the Constitutional Committee’s work from a regional capital, most likely Iraq or Jordan.

The regime’s approach to the processes of normalization underway with both the Arab states and Turkey suggests that it wants to limit its participation to addressing common security concerns. By contrast, it wants to avoid any discussion of the political process under UN Security Council Resolution 2254 of 2015, which calls for a ceasefire and a political settlement in Syria. It is also clear that the regime has begun to exclude humanitarian issues from these normalization tracks, although the Amman Statement mentioned them, include the question of the return of refugees.

Therefore, it appears that changing the location of the Constitutional Committee meeting – even if that were approved by the UN and the Syrian opposition – is unlikely to change the regime’s behavior over the past eight rounds and in its normalization processes. The only likely outcome is that it acheives another political gain, pushing Syria further down the UN’s agenda and turning it into a regional file, allowing Damascus to continue blackmailing the countries of the region.