Parties’ Objectives within the Constitutional Committee Process
Constitutional Committee rounds have been dominated by regime priorities on the broader Syria file, rather than a good-faith effort to compromise with the opposition and reach agreement on the contents of a new constitution. The regime’s demands have stalled any sort of constitutional drafting process, and instead focused on securing major political concessions from the opposition delegation. At the same time, the regime and Russia have continued to carryout military operations on the ground.
- Regime Delegation Priorities:
The regime delegation has worked to secure concessions from the opposition on major issues outside of the scope of the constitution’s content as preconditions for technical discussions. Although the constitutional committee rounds are meant to be discussions between the three delegations of Syrians representing the regime, opposition and civil-society, Russia has closely steered the regime’s delegation priorities during the talks to also reflect its agenda for Syria, which includes:
– Recognition: The UN requested that the opposition address the regime delegation as “representatives of the Syrian government.”
– Refugees: Pressure on the Syrian opposition to consider the Syrian refugees’ portfolio a supra-negotiating file.
– Terrorism: Securing the opposition’s condemnation of groups the regime classifies as “terrorists” in the north, working to destabilize the country.
– Foreign presence: Pushing the opposition to acknowledge the illegality of foreign presence in Syria, such as the American and Turkish presence, which were not requested to enter Syria by government, unlike the Russian presence.
– Sanctions: The need to lift the sanctions on Syria, on the premise that sanctions do not help secure the conditions for the return of refugees by establishing a stifling economic blockade on the country.
– Territorial integrity: Demanding from the opposition the total rejection of all forms of secession that are supported and perpetuated in north-east Syria, and establishing redlines against using language or diversity as grounds for separation.
- Opposition Delegation Priorities:
While there is a range of opinion within the opposition delegation, in general it has demonstrated a willingness to engage and flexibility towards the Constitutional Committee process. While it has not set major preconditions as a precursor to its engagement in technical discussions on the constitution’s content, it has requested good-will gestures from the regime to build confidence, these requests include:
– Detainees: Pushing the regime to consider the detainees file as a supra-negotiating file, similar to the regime’s demand for the refugees file. In this way the opposition wants to see the regime release detainees as a good-will gesture.
– De-escalation: For the regime to halt military operations on opposition territory, particular its aggression on Idlb province.
– Refugees: Guaranteeing the voluntary return of refugees premised on a safe and neutral environment for return.
- Civil Society Delegation Priorities: The civil society delegation is expected to represent the diverse perspectives and concerns of Syrians into the Constitutional Committee process, while offering technical expertise relevant to the drafting of a new constitution. This delegation is divided at least into two, partly pro-regime, partly those entering into the process in good faith who wish to focus on substantive discussions and see results from the process. However, it is notable that Syrian civil society figures outside of this delegation have offered criticism that the majority of the names that comprise the civil society delegation do not represent any recognizable or legitimate Syrian civil society figures.