As a new round of talks on a new constitution for conflict-ridden Syria continues in Geneva, papers containing the basic principles submitted by the Syrian regime and the opposition have been seen by Anadolu Agency.
The sixth round of the Syrian Constitutional Committee meetings at the UN Geneva office began Monday under the chairpersonship of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen after opposition and government representatives agreed to launch a drafting process for constitutional reform in the country.
A 45-member mini-constitutional drafting body representing the regime, the opposition, and civil society are taking part in the talks.
During the Monday and Tuesday meetings, the regime delegation presented a principle titled "The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” while the opposition presented a principle titled "The army, armed forces, security, and intelligence."
According to informed sources who spoke to Anadolu Agency, the civil society delegation is expected on Wednesday to present a constitutional principle on "The rule of law." The regime is also expected on Thursday to submit another set of principles related to terrorism.
The following is the paper submitted by the opposition, which includes a four-point constitutional principle on security, the army, the armed forces, and intelligence:
• The state is committed to building security and intelligence institutions to maintain national security which will be subject to the rule of law, operate in accordance with the constitution and the law, are committed to respecting human rights, and operate in accordance with the highest standards.
• The army, armed forces, and security services are national institutions that guarantee sovereignty and national unity, define the army’s doctrine away from ideological, partisan, and factional affiliations, and monopolize the carrying and use of arms throughout the Syrian territories.
• The army is an armed military force (constituted) based on competence and discipline. It performs its tasks according to the constitution. It is composed and structurally organized according to the law. It undertakes the duty to defend the borders of the homeland and the population from external threats and terrorism. It protects the independence and territorial integrity of Syria. It is obliged to adhere to complete political neutrality and supports the civilian authorities in line with the law.
• The security services are responsible for maintaining security and public order, protecting individuals, institutions, and property, and enforcing the law. They themselves are subject to the law, and they perform their tasks within the framework of respect for basic human rights principles, and within the framework of complete political neutrality.
Discussions of the submitted papers are ongoing in the meetings as the sides try to reach common ground. The opposition said they want to raise constitutional, legal, and political issues contained in the regime’s paper.
The following are excerpts from the six-point paper presented by the regime entitled "The Sovereignty, Independence and Unity of the Syrian Arab Republic."
• The Syrian Arab Republic is an independent and fully sovereign state. It does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and its territorial integrity and the unity of its people are indivisible, and no part of it may be ceded.
• Any separatist or semi-separatist projects or trends, regardless of their formulation, are considered contradictory to the principle of the unity of the Syrian territories, and contrary to the will of the Syrian people. The Local Administration Law regulates the powers and authorities of the councils of administrative units.
• The Syrian state has the exclusive right to have full sovereignty over the total capabilities, natural resources, and underground wealth in all its lands, and to manage and supervise their investment.
• The Syrian Arab Republic is part of the Arab world, is proud of its Arab affiliation, and works to support and strengthen Arab cooperation and solidarity with the aim of achieving the unity of the Arab nation.
• The Syrian Arab Republic seeks to achieve international peace and security in light of respect for international law and the values of truth and justice.
'Real mission’ in meetings
The Syrian Constitutional Committee meetings are expected to continue on Wednesday, and representatives of civil society organizations are set to submit two proposals for discussion within the meetings of the mini-body.
The meetings are set to conclude Friday.
On Tuesday, opposition committee member Tariq al-Kurdi told Anadolu Agency that the committee has embarked on its real mission, as it is discussing formulations of constitutional principles submitted by the three parties to reach common ground between them.
After the opening meetings, which started Oct. 30, 2019, with the participation of 150 members and ended on Nov. 1, 2019, the 45-person editorial board of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, called the "Small Group," held five rounds of meetings at the UN Geneva office.
In the fifth round of the Syrian Constitutional Committee held on Jan. 25-29, 2021, the parties aimed, for the first time, to focus on the content of the constitution and move on to the writing phase. However, the intransigence of the delegation representing the Bashar al-Assad regime blocked the process.
Members of the "Small Group" responsible for the writing of the constitution, made up of 15 people each from the Assad regime, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the Syrian opposition, are holding talks under the supervision of Pedersen.
Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
More than 5 million civilians have since been displaced.