ASTANA, March 14. /TASS/. Russia’s delegation at the inter-Syrian talks in Astana has proposed a project of setting up a constitutional commission to draft Syria’s new Constitution, Russian Presidential Envoy for Syria Settlement and Delegation Head Alexander Lavrentyev said on Tuesday.
"Now we have proposed a project for discussion and consideration to set up a constitutional commission to deal with drafting the Constitution. I would like to emphasize that this does not mean that we’re imposing a specific solution of this issue," Lavrentyev said.
According to him, the draft document on setting up the constitutional commission has been handed over to the Syrian government for consideration.
"Work on it is under way. Something will be absolutely unacceptable for them while something, as I believe, will be taken into account and something will be used in the course of the Geneva talks whose new round will open on March 23," the head of the Russian delegation said.
Lavrentyev also said that Russia’s draft of the Syrian constitution has not yet been looked at by the Syrian armed opposition however the issue of establishing a constitutional commission is being discussed now.
"At Astana-1 [the first round of the Astana talks] we handed over a draft of Syria’s new constitution which, regrettably, has not been considered by the Syrian armed opposition," he said. "Nevertheless, we have offered for discussion a draft document on establishing a constitutional commission which will draft a new constitution."
According to Lavrentyev, Russia has suggested a working group be set up on exchange of forcibly kept persons by the parties to the Syrian conflict.
"Issues of top priority include strengthening the ceasefire," Lavrentyev said. "But there are a lot of issues apart from strengthening the ceasefire. These are various mechanisms of ceasefire monitoring, a mechanism for punishing its violators."
"A very interesting issue raised by the Russian side is the establishment of a working group on exchange of forcibly kept persons by the conflicting parties," he added.
In general, several documents are considered at talks on Syria in Astana, according to Lavrentyev.
"The Astana process functions, it is progressing steadily. I want to assure all that the three guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran) have a lot of issues that must be discussed and on which balanced and solid decisions must be passed," Lavrentyev said.
"We need time for passing a number of documents which we now look into and coordinate," Lavrentyev said.
He said it would be premature at the moment to say which documents will be approved on March 15. "Work is underway. The very fact that all delegations show interest in discussing issues inspires big optimism," the diplomat added.
Lavrentyev said that the delegation of Syria’s armed opposition is unlikely to arrive in Astana to take part in the intra-Syrian peace talks.
"Most likely, the opposition delegation will not arrive, including tomorrow," Lavrentyev told journalists. "However deep inside there is a hope that common sense will get the upper hand and the opposition will take a decision to take part in tomorrow’s consultations."
Lavrentyev said "a rather wide range of issues" was discussed with the Syrian delegation today and hailed its constructive approach. "I would like to stress that even the absence of the Syrian armed opposition delegation doesn’t belittle the significance of the Astana process. It goes on," he said. "The guarantor countries have a lot of issues that are to be discussed and that require well-balanced and well-grounded solutions."
On Monday, Osama Abu Zeid, a member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said that the Syrian armed opposition would not participate in the March 14-15 Astana meeting. According to him, the decision was made in protest against "unfulfilled obligations concerning the ceasefire."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov however said that reason was unconvincing.
Sporadic provocations in Syria on the general backdrop of reduced level of violence on the ground are poor pretext to excuse the absence the Syrian armed opposition delegation at the Astana peace talks, Russia’s chief negotiator said.
"We cannot accept the excuse offered by the Syrian armed opposition, which claims that the level of violence has risen in the recent time through the fault of the Syrian government, for not coming here," Lavrentyev said. "We see a somewhat different tendency, i.e. towards considerable decrease of violence."
"Provocations do take place, they continue but it doesn’t mean that one should strike an attitude and reject dialogue," the Russian diplomat noted. "An agreed solution can be reached only through dialogue."
According to Lavrentyev, the issue of the Syrian armed opposition’s absence from Astana was raised in contacts with the Turkish delegation as Ankara has influence on it. "However Ankara is a guarantor of the observance of the ceasefire terms by the opposition but it cannot guarantee their presence," he added.