The sixth round of Syrian peace settlement talks has ended in Geneva without any breakthrough decisions. It lasted only four days – from May 16 through to May 19 – and was devoted to discussions of an initiative by the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura for a mechanism of expert consultations on constitutional and legal issues.
As a result, the parties to the talks managed to coordinate and launch this mechanism but its further importance for the negotiations process, as the differences between Syrian government and the opposition on the fundamental issues remain wide and unbridged.
Refining of details of the problems taken up at the Syrian talks should become the backbone element of the mechanism of consultations behind closed doors proposed by De Mistura. He told the final news conference, however, the drafting of a new Constitution was not on the agenda, since the Syrians were supposed to draft it themselves.
The first meetings in the format of expert consultations took place on Thursday. Experts from De Mistura’s Office met separates with the governmental delegation and then with representatives of the oppositionist High Negotiations Committee.
De Mistura said he was planning to set up a unified expert team of the opposition but he had failed to secure seats for the Moscow and Cairo opposition groups on it. He added they had received invitations to join the team and were ready to do it. “We’ll continue efforts in that direction,” he said.
Delegations of the government and of the High Negotiations Committee made rather reserved comments, which boiled down to statement of the fact technical consultations of this kind had existed in the past, too.
Events in Syria has more than once created an unfavorable background for the Geneva talks. The current round was not an exception, as the U.S. Department of State issued a statement on the eve of the opening of the talks on an alleged crematorium in the government-controlled Saydnaya prison near Damascus.
The last day of the consultations was marred by a strike the pro-Washington coalition delivered at a column of government forces. On the face of it, the opposition is accusing the government of an assault on its positions in the suburbs of Damascus.
Much to the credit of participants in the talks, these factors did not prevent from bringing the work in the Geneva to completion. The process was not without a hitch, though, as the representatives of the of the Syrian Free Army, the largest opposition grouping, said on Thursday night they were suspending their participation in the talks.
For truth’s sake, tensions of this sort are not uncommon within the ranks of the High Negotiations Committee. It is expected that the results of the sixth round of Geneva talks and the prospects for the future will come under discussion at the Riyadh consultations of the committee in the next few weeks.