Peace Process Threatened After Damascus Questioned Swiss Neutrality

Photo credit; AFP

A UN official warned on Monday that Damascus questioning the neutrality of Switzerland, which is the proposed host of the talks, has put in doubt the efforts to revive the peace process in Syria’s 11-year conflict.

The Syrian government is allegedly believing that the Swiss could no longer be considered an impartial mediator considering that Switzerland is observing the international sanctions against Russia, which is a close ally of Syria.

After the 2012 UN road map to peace in Syria, which called for the drafting of a new constitution, was unanimously endorsed in December 2015, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution at the Syrian peace conference that Russia hosted in January 2018.

It wasn’t until September 2019 that the smaller, 45-member body, was formed to do the actual drafting, but after eight rounds of talks little progress has been achieved.

The first round of negotiations – or ninth round since the process started- since the stalled Russian-sponsored peace effort in 2018 was scheduled in Geneva on July 25.

Alluding to the neutrality issue, the UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said that the ninth round of talks on revising Syria’s constitution could not be held, stressing it’s important for of all parties to protect and firewall the Syrian political process from their differences elsewhere in the world.

Although he didn’t directly explain the reason for Damascus rejecting talks in Geneva. UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq stressed on Monday that discussions on Syria must be kept as much as possible separate and apart from discussions on other topics.

He also reaffirmed Switzerland’s neutrality as a venue for much of the work of the United Nations, whose major European headquarters are situated in Geneva.

He said he would continue to engage with the Syrian parties and provide more information in due course, encouraging them to engage in constructive diplomacy in the meantime.

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