The latest session of the UN-mediated Syrian constitutional talks has concluded, without announcing the date for the next meeting as expected. "We just concluded the session, after what I would call a challenging week," UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen told reporters here on Saturday, adding that he was "extremely pleased" that the talks were able to reconvene despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.

"It's been absolutely fascinating to listen to the discussions that we have been having. I mean, obviously, there are still very strong disagreements," he said. The latest session of the Syrian Constitutional Committee Small Body, which aims at paving the way for a political solution to the decades-long conflict in the country, started in Geneva on August 23.

Syria
Syria Map (Representational Picture) Wikimedia Commons

Respectful Tone of Talks

It then had to be suspended after four delegates tested positive for the virus. The talks then resumed on August 27, following additional testing and further medical and expert advice. "I was extremely pleased to hear the two co-chairs saying very clearly that they thought also there were quite a few areas or commonalities," Pedersen said. "What I'm looking forward to is... that we will be able to build on those commonalities and bring the process further forward."

He told reporters that the tone during the talks was respectful, and "people were listening to each other". "I also got a clear message, both from their co-chairs and from the members, that they are keen to meet again," he said.

Talks to Be Held In Geneva

The UN envoy said he will work with the two co-chairs on finding an agreement on the agenda for the next session, and then set an exact date for the next talks, which is expected to be held also in Geneva.

The 150-member Syrian Constitutional Committee -- which comprises representatives of the Syrian government, the opposition, and civil society -- was officially launched in Geneva on October 30, 2019. The Committee and its Small Body held two rounds of sessions in November 2019, without making any major progress. The Small Body comprises 45 delegates, 15 each from the three groups.