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Russian lawmakers, Assad agree to create constitutional commission in Syrian parliament

Bashar Assad has passed a decision to set up a constitutional commission at the national parliament
Syrian President Bashar Assad EPA/SANA HANDOUT
Syrian President Bashar Assad

DAMASCUS, March 20. /TASS/. Lawmakers of Russia’s State Duma have reached an agreement with Syrian President Bashar Assad to establish a constitutional commission in the Syrian parliament, said MP Leonid Slutsky, who is visiting the country as part of a delegation.

"We discussed details on the constitutional process and the creation of constitutional commission in the parliament. Now we have to discuss this with the parliament’s head Hadiya Abbas," said Slutsky, who chairs the lower house’s international affairs committee.

The creation of this constitutional commission could bring about significant changes in the constitutional process currently underway as part of the intra-Syrian dialogue in Geneva and Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, Slutsky said.

 Bashar Assad has passed a decision to set up a constitutional commission at the national parliament, he went on.

"At a meeting with a delegation from the State Duma [lower house of Russia’s parliament - TASS] on March 20, Mr. Bashar Assad took a decision on our initiative to set up a parliamentary commission on the country’s new constitution," he said.

"It’s up to you to decide how to form this commission," he said at a meeting with speaker of Syria’s parliament Hadiya Abbas. "We are ready to share our experience. I am sure you will be able to find a right mechanism."

He stressed that this decision was taken on the basis of recommendations from the Russian State Duma, lawmakers from the Council of Europe and PACE President Pedro Agramunt.

"This commission will help combine the results of the work of the intra-Syrian dialogue in Geneva, talks in Astana and in various groups [on drafting a new constitution] of Syrian society. The constitutional commission will help make the constitutional process really nationwide. It is a landmark event not only for the Syrian people but also for international parliamentarism," Slutsky underscored.

The State Duma lawmakers together with members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also discussed with Assad issues of creating a special working group for constitutional issues in the framework of the intra-Syrian dialogue in Geneva, the head of Russia’s delegation, Vladimir Vasilyev, said.

"We discussed a range of sensitive issues on the implementation of Security Council’s Resolution 2254 and setting up a special working group for constitutional issues at the platform of the intra-Syrian dialogue in Geneva," said Vasilyev, who is deputy speaker of the State Duma.

The creation of this group is in line with proposals of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, he said.

The discussion also focused on national autonomies, enhancing dialogue of the country’s current leadership with national communities in Syria and also such a sensitive issue as the prisoner exchange. "We reached common ground on each issue," he said.

The State Duma lawmakers and members of PACE, including President Pedro Agramunt, arrived in Syria on Monday. Russia’s delegation consists of lawmakers of all four factions. The European side’s delegation includes some 10 parliamentarians from Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Belgium. The visit comes at the invitation of Speaker of Syrian People's Council Hadiya Khalaf Abbas.