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Syria says 'progress' towards talks on post-war constitution

By AFP - Jul 11,2019 - Last updated at Jul 11,2019

This handout photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on Wednesday shows United Nations special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen (left) meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem in the Syrian capital Damascus (AFP photo)

DAMASCUS — Damascus on Wednesday announced "great progress" towards forming a body to agree on a new constitution.

"Great progress was made towards reaching an agreement for a committee to discuss the constitution," the foreign ministry said after UN envoy Geir Pedersen met its head Walid Muallem.

Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat who took over the job in January, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday hoping to push ahead with stalling efforts to end the eight-year civil war.

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

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

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

Pro-government newspaper Al Watan on Tuesday reported that a body could start work as early as September if Damascus agreed to Pedersen's list.

Numerous rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to end the Syrian crisis that started in 2011. In recent years, a parallel negotiations track led by Russia and Turkey has taken precedence.

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