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News compilation by New Cold War.org, Jan 28, 2017

Lavrov: Russia’s draft of Syria’s constitution sums up proposals of government, opposition

TASS, Jan 27, 2017

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) meets with representatives of Syria’s opposition in Moscow on January 27, 2017 (photo by AFP)

MOSCOW – Russia’s draft of Syria’s Constitution generalizes the proposals of the Syrian government and opposition groups over the past years, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

“The draft Constitution attempts to bring together and find shared points in those approaches that were outlined to us both by representatives of the government and representatives of the opposition, including all those present here, over the past several years,” Lavrov said.

“Some of the oppositionists said the other day that the Constitution should be written by the Syrians themselves and compared this draft to the Constitution, which the United States had imposed on Iraq. This is a very incorrect position because in Iraq the talk was about occupants who had written the Constitution and it was imposed on the Iraqi people as an uncompromising text. In this case, the talk is about the proposals that have been transferred for consideration by the Syrian sides themselves,” the Russian foreign minister said.

Russia is not imposing its draft Constitution on anyone and the talk is about the proposals called upon to stimulate a discussion on this issue in Geneva, the Russian foreign minister said.

“We are convinced that it is time to stop arguing round and round the subject and it is necessary to focus on discussing specific issues that were outlined in Resolution 2254, including the work on the Constitution,” the Russian foreign minister said.

“Moscow does not impose its own solutions, it just offers to speed up very complex work on drafting such a document,” the diplomat said. “No one is going to argue with the Syrians themselves about these sovereign issues for Syria.”.

No reason to postpone talks

There is no reason to further postpone intra-Syrian talks, he went on. Representatives of the Riyadh group of the Syrian opposition were invited but refused to come to Moscow for a meeting in the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“We invited the representatives of the Riyadh group to Moscow, they said they would come, but later said that they should contact with us independently, and not part of progressive democratic opposition forces,” Lavrov said.

“The Riyadh group has said it is only possible to sit down for the talks after the cessation of hostilities,” he said. “Once that the military actions have been terminated and a cease-fire established, there should be no slim excuses,” he added.

“If we always look back at the position of the Riyadh group, we can never make progress in the intra-Syrian settlement,” Lavrov said.

Astana meeting

The Astana talks became a qualitatively new step in the Syrian settlement as they were attended by the armed opposition, according to Lavrov.

Russia’s top diplomat made this statement at a meeting with representatives of the Syrian opposition.

“We view the Astana event as an important and a qualitatively new step towards settlement because now these processes involve armed opposition groups, which have not participated until now in contacts with the government and, as a whole, in the processes related to negotiations on the country’s future,” the Russian foreign minister said.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with representatives of the Syrian opposition

Press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 139-27-01-2017

On January 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov received a delegation of the Syrian political opposition in Moscow, including representative of the Moscow Group Qadri Jamil, a leader of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation; Randa Kassis, representative of the Astana Group and Chair of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society; Cairo Group representatives Jihad Makdissi and Jamal Suleiman; Hasan Ismael Abdulazeem, General Coordinator of the National Coordination Body for Forces of Democratic Change and a member of the Higher Negotiations Committee; Hmeymim Group Chairman Ilian Masaad; representatives of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party and Kurdish Self-Government for Northern Syria Khaled Issa and Ali Abdessalyam; leader of the Building the Syrian State Party Louay Hussein; and leader of the People’s Will Party Alya Arafat.

That same day, Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held in-depth consultations with the Syrian opposition delegation.

Syrian opposition activists representing various political associations and factions were briefed on Russia’s assessment of the January 23-24 international meeting on Syria in Astana. At the same time, Mr Lavrov urged the partners to take an active part in launching a sustained negotiating process for a Syrian political settlement in Geneva, in cooperation with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

A new draft Syrian constitution, prepared jointly by Russian and Arab experts and distributed by the Russian delegation in Astana, was presented to the meeting participants.

Representatives of the Syrian domestic and external opposition praised Russia’s efforts toward resolving the Syrian crisis as quickly as possible through an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, decisions of the International Syria Support Group and the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012.

The Syrian negotiators voiced their intention to establish working groups for constitutional issues and for establishing a consolidated opposition delegation at the upcoming round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva under UN auspices.


Geneva talks postponed until end of February, Russia’s top diplomat criticizes delay

Story published in TASS, Jan 27, 2017

MOSCOW – UN-brokered Syria talks in Geneva have been postponed from February 8 until the end of month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the meeting with the Syrian opposition members in Moscow.

“It is pleasant that the announcement of the Astana meeting forced our colleagues in the UN to declare a new round of talks,” Lavrov said. “Although this date has been again put off from February 8 until the end of next month.”

In late December, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced that the next round of intra-Syrian talks would be held on February 8. However, lately de Mistura, who did not give up the plans of holding the meeting, provided no details about the date.

The UN’s attempts to delay the next round of the intra-Syrian negotiations is unacceptable, Lavrov said.

“We are convinced that passivity of our counterparts at the UN who did not hold any talks rounds since April is unacceptable,” he said.


Background:

As published in New Cold War.org Information Bulletin Vo 2 #15:

Syrian opposition forming working groups on constitutional matters, meet in Moscow with Russian foreign minister, TASS, Jan 27, 2017

MOSCOW – The Syrian opposition is setting up working groups on constitutional matters and forming a united delegation to the Geneva talks, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement  following the country’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with an opposition delegation…

Statement by Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on outcome of Syria ceasefire conference in Kazakhstan Jan 23, 24 2017 and on discussions of possible constitutional ammendments in Syria, published on website of the ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Jan 27, 2017

‘Media outlets are reporting that Russia is trying to impose this constitution on Syria, allegedly acting like Paul Bremer, head of the American occupation authority of Iraq, did in 2003-2004. We strongly disagree with this assessment, which does not correspond to reality and generally distorts the picture. Russia is not trying to impose anything on Syrians – neither the terms of the settlement nor the new constitution…’

‘Russia has repeatedly clarified the meaning of this move at various levels. Our task was to intensify the intra-Syrian political dialogue as prescribed by Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council…’

Read also in TASS:
Russian foreign minister assesses Syrian settlement prospects as ‘fairly good’

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