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Astana trio, UN launch Syrian Constitutional Committee

The launch of the Syrian Constitutional Committee provides hopes for a fresh start, but there's also enough room for skepticism.
A general view during the meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland October 31, 2019. Martial Trezzini/Pool via REUTERS - RC1A1AD4CDA0

The Syrian Constitutional Committee began its work precisely 19 months after the idea to establish the body was made in Sochi in late January 2018. Back then, the initiative seemed quixotic to most.

On Oct. 30, in Geneva, UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen formally launched the 150-member Syrian Constitutional Committee comprised of 50 delegates from the government, the opposition and civil society. To recap, it was the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi in January last year that produced the idea. Back then, the structure of the body was discussed — the idea originally put forward by Russia and backed by Turkey and Iran. It took the three states almost 12 months to work out the composition. For a long time, official Damascus refused to discuss the country's future political structure at any venues outside Syria. The opposition, in its own turn, did not want to engage in a dialogue amid ongoing fighting. The Astana trio would then have to force the parties into dialogue.

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