UN envoy arrives in Damascus for new talks

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The UN special envoy for Syria arrived in Damascus Tuesday to press fresh talks on forming a constitutional committee to revive a stalling peace process to end the eight-year war.

“Pleased to be back in Damascus,” Geir Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat and the fourth UN ambassador to seek an end to the civil war, wrote on Twitter.

His visit, the fourth since taking up the job in January, comes as the regime and their Russian ally have been carrying out deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib in northwest Syria.

“Hopeful we can move the political process forward with the constitutional committee as a door opener, and that we can find a way to end the violence in Idlib,” Pedersen said in the tweet.

His predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, stepped down after a four-year tenure that ended with an abortive push to form the committee to draw up a post-war constitution.

The regime wants to amend the existing constitution, while the opposition have called for a new one entirely.

The committee is to be made up of 150 members, 50 chosen by the regime, the same number by the opposition, and another 50 selected by the UN envoy.

Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Pedersen was set to meet senior officials from the foreign ministry on Wednesday.

If Damascus accepted Pedersen’s proposed list, “the committee could start work in September,” sources told the newspaper in its Tuesday issue.

Pedersen also said he hoped, during his visit, to “continue work on detainees, abductees, and missing persons” since the start of the conflict.

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