posted on Wed 27 Feb 2019 2:29 PM
Syria: First Political Briefing by Pedersen

Tomorrow (28 February), Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen, who assumed his position on 7 January, will provide his first briefing to the Security Council on the political situation in Syria. The meeting takes place two weeks before the eighth anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict. This will also be the first opportunity for the five Council members that joined the Council in January 2019 to make statements specifically on the political situation in Syria.

Pedersen is likely to brief the Council on his consultations with key actors on Syria, including with the government in Damascus and the opposition’s Syrian Negotiation Commission in Riyadh. Pedersen is expected to present his initial thoughts on how to promote progress on the political process. In a press encounter on 15 February, he emphasised that his mandate remains the terms spelled out in resolution 2254, which provides for a Syrian-led, UN-facilitated process to establish credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance, set a process for drafting a new constitution, and conduct free and fair elections. While Pedersen expressed his hope to convene a meeting of the constitutional committee in Geneva as soon as possible, as a “potential door-opener for the political process”, he indicated that he will also work on the other elements outlined in resolution 2254 in parallel.

Council members are likely to inquire about the prospect of agreement regarding the establishment of the constitutional committee, including its composition and rules of procedure. The constitutional committee is expected to comprise 150 people, one-third each from the government, the opposition, and civil society. Although the Astana guarantors (Iran, Russia and Turkey) agreed in December 2018 on the 50 names of a civil society list for the constitutional committee, the UN did not consider that all 50 members of the list met the necessary criteria of credibility and balance. Council members, who all maintain publicly that they consider resolution 2254 as the basis for a political settlement of the conflict, may discuss how, bilaterally and collectively, they can best support its implementation and Pedersen’s facilitation role.

Council members may be interested in hearing more about Pedersen’s intention to step up work on confidence-building measures. In particular, some of them may encourage progress regarding the status of detainees, abductees and missing persons. Even though the Astana guarantors have established a working group to address these issues, and some prisoners were swapped in November 2018 and in February, much work remains to be done.

In addition to the implementation of resolution 2254, Council members may be interested in discussing with Pedersen efforts to prevent a military escalation in the northwest, where Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (a Council-designated terrorist group) has taken control of most of Idlib, and in the northeast, where uncertainty continues over the fate of the territory held by the Syrian Democratic Forces following the US announcement that it would withdraw from Syria or at least significantly reduce its presence.