Syria's constitutional committee meets in Switzerland to start reconciliation talks and revise the country's constitution.
For the first time and after eight and a half years of civil war, officials from the Syrian government, members from the opposition parties and civil society gathered Wednesday for the inaugural of a United Nations-backed committee which will have the charge to pave the way for reconciliation and to review the country’s constitution before it is submitted to the vote of the Syrian people.
The delegations representing the rival sides constitute a panel of 150 members in total. The latter sat opposite each other with stony-faces at the U.N.’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland brought together by the U.N. Special Envoy Geir Pedersen.
"I know it is not easy for all of you to be here together in this room...but the fact you are here, face to face, is a powerful sign of hope for all Syrians, everywhere," Pedersen said.
The government, opposition, and civil society have respectively 50 members within the board; each delegation including Kurds.
In his opening comments, the panel’s government co-chair Ahmad Kuzbari denounced "terrorism" perpetrated on Syrian soil .
“The presence of any occupying forces on our territory, the spoliation of the resources of our country, the continuing imposition of unilateral sanctions threaten the entire political process as well as being in contradiction with international legitimacy,” he said.
He then greeted the initiative saying it constitutes “one of the entry points to the political process to solve the crisis that has ravaged our beloved homeland.”
The co-chair from the opposition Hadi al-Bahra recalled that more than 65 percent of the Arab country’s infrastructure has been destroyed.
“It is time for us to believe that victory in Syria is achieving justice and peace, not winning the war...the memory of one million victims must guide us out of this dark tunnel. The aspirations of millions of Syrians to go back to their homeland and find their loved ones must be our compass,” al-Bahra said.
However, the co-chairs did not shake hands at the end of the ceremony.
The war in Syria started in 2011 and caused hundreds of thousands of victims, forcing millions to flee the country.
The committee, which demanded of almost two years of negotiations to be formed, has been welcomed by Turkey which supports anti-President Bashar al Assad insurgency, as well as Iran and Russia which are the president’s main allies. The United States and the European Union also worked the past yeat to convene the initiative.