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No Progress On Syrian Constitutional Committee At Talks In Kazakhstan

Syrian U.N. ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari (C) speaks with other participants during a session of the peace talks on Syria in Nur-Sultan, April 26, 2019
Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, April 26, 2019 (AFP) -

Two-day talks on Syria backed by Iran, Russia and Turkey concluded in Kazakhstan Friday without notable progress on forming a constitutional committee to drive a political settlement in the war-wracked country.

A joint statement released by the three co-sponsors said the meeting had broached the issue of the constitutional committee with the United Nations' Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen.

However further talks in Geneva would be needed, it added.

The parties were committed to "the establishment and the convening of the Constitutional Committee at the earliest in Geneva, holding the next round of consultations in Geneva and to support the Special Envoy's effort," the statement said.

The constitutional committee is of particular interest to the UN which favors a Syrian-led resolution to the conflict.

In comments after the end of the first day of talks on Thursday, Russia's chief negotiator Aleksandr Lavrentyev said that "several unclear issues" were slowing the formation of a constitutional committee but did not specify.

Iran, Russia and Turkey also used the occasion of the negotiations in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan to reiterate criticism of the United States for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The three countries condemned the move as a "rude violation of sovereignty" that would "create a threat to peace and security in the Middle East," they said in a joint statement.

The joint statement also said Iraq and Lebanon would be invited to the next talks in Kazakhstan on Syria in July.

Jordan and the United States have observed the talks in the past.

Russia, a backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has taken the lead role in diplomatic efforts in Kazakhstan that have largely sidelined UN diplomacy in Geneva.

Tehran, like Moscow, is an ally of Assad, while Ankara has aligned itself with the rebels but has repeatedly threatened to attack Kurdish fighters on the Syrian side of its southern border that it views as "terrorists".

The capital of Kazakhstan was called Astana until last month, when it was renamed Nur-Sultan after the country's outgoing president.

It began hosting talks on Syria in January 2017.

Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since the conflict began with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.