Syrian opposition, Turkey reject discussing new constitution

Orient Net 2017-02-04 08:32:00

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Syria’s main opposition groups and Turkey rejected on Friday discussing the future administrative make-up of Syria or a new constitution at talks aiming to end the war, AFP cited a Turkish foreign ministry source as saying.

The ministry’s number two Umit Yalcin hosted Syrian political opposition groups, as well as representatives of opposition fighting factions at a meeting in Ankara ahead of new peace talks later this month.

The opposition took part in talks in the Kazakh capital Astana last month brokered by Russia and Turkey, whose differences on the war have narrowed in recent months despite Moscow backing Assad and Ankara the rebels.

At those talks, Russia gave the rebels a draft version of a new Syria constitution and the blueprint has been promoted by Moscow as offering a possible solution to the conflict.

But a Turkish foreign ministry source said that at the Ankara meeting "all participants pointed out that bringing up the future administrative system of Syria... and attempting to start a discussion on issues such as a new constitution, autonomy or federalism... risk serving the purposes of those who pursue unilateral agendas."

New talks backed by the United Nations are scheduled in Geneva on February 20 but the source said groups pursuing unilateral agendas "at the expense of the territorial integrity of Syria" should have no place at the table.

Turkey is wary of any proposal to split Syria into federations, especially including a Kurdish entity in the northeast.

A fragile ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia between opposition fighters and the regime has largely held since December. But the source said all sides denounced "unacceptable" violations of the ceasefire and acquisitions of territory by the regime.

They also warned against the presence of "fake opposition" at the talks, a reference to groups deemed by Turkey to be too loyal to Assad favoured by Moscow.

The meeting was attended by the key opposition figures including Riad Hijab, head of the High Negotiation Committee and Syrian National Coalition head Anas al-Abdeh.

Members of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly representing the Turkmen minority, and the Kurdish National Council were also present.