The United Nations has settled the recent debate over the location for resuming the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, following proposals to hold it in Muscat, Cairo, Kuwait, or other capitals and UN headquarters outside Geneva. In the briefing presented by Najat Rochdi, the Deputy Special Envoy, to the Security Council on June 29, 2023, it was affirmed that Geir Pedersen continues his efforts to resume the work of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva. He is engaging with all parties for this purpose and there is a need to overcome the issues that have prevented the meetings from taking place.
Continuing the sessions of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva would block attempts to merge the track of constitutional reform with the Arab or Turkish normalization tracks with the Syrian regime. It would also keep the committee under the auspices and supervision of the United Nations, thus ensuring its continuation based on Resolution 2254 (2015). Nevertheless, the United Nations has shown a positive view towards the Arab and Turkish normalization tracks with the regime, considering them as renewed diplomacy that contributes to building some confidence between the conflict parties and moving forward towards a political solution in accordance with Resolution 2254.
However, despite the United Nations' decision, it is not expected that Russia will change its position in obstructing the convening of the Constitutional Committee and preventing the regime delegation from attending in Geneva unless its conditions regarding the lifting of sanctions imposed on its diplomats due to the invasion of Ukraine are met..
In light of this impasse, one of the proposed solutions is to abandon the rounds of constitutional discussions and transition to the working group system under the envoy's sponsorship, which focuses on political issues such as the constitution, elections, humanitarian issues, and confidence-building measures, including the detainee file, let aside activating the working groups concerned with the ceasefire and delivering humanitarian assistance.
This proposal was mentioned in the paper of the Small Group of Five States published on January 26, 2018, just three days before the Sochi conference concluded with an agreement to form the Constitutional Committee. One of the goals of the Small Group's paper was to prevent Russia from establishing a political track outside the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva after obstructing its talks following the eighth round, similar to the military track that Russia established in Astana at the end of 2016.
In fact, the working group system resolves the issue of the Geneva venue, as its workshops can be held in various locations. However, due to the regime's reluctance to accept the working group system with the opposition amid the gains of normalization, the Special Envoy may work on integrating the working group system within a step-by-step approach, in addition to gaining Western and Russian support for it as a temporary solution to avoid complete disruption of the UN's role, giving the proposal a better chance for discussion in the next stage.
As a result, the United Nations has determined its position regarding the location for the sessions of the Constitutional Committee, which will remain in Geneva. However, the reasons for its obstruction have not been resolved yet, and it is supposed to be addressed in the upcoming period, either by meeting Russia's conditions or through discussing new proposals such as the working group system.