Syrian government and opposition representatives sat down to draft a new constitution, in what UN mediator Geir Pedersen called a “historic moment”.
The fact that the warring sides agreed to sit down face to face for the first time after nearly nine years of conflict “is a powerful sign of hope for Syrians everywhere,” Pedersen told the 150 delegates.
“I encourage you to be patient and also to be persistent, to be ready to compromise and to engage constructively,” the Norwegian UN diplomat said.
He pointed out that the talks could pave the way to a broader peace process.
“I know that it is not easy for you to be here together in this room,” he acknowledged.
The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations.
The war is currently the second deadliest of the 21st century.
The unrest in Syria, part of a wider wave of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, grew out of discontent with the Syrian government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for Assad’s removal were violently suppressed.
The war, which began on March 15, 2011 with major unrest in Damascus and Aleppo, is being fought by several factions: the Syrian Armed Forces and its international allies, a loose alliance of mostly Sunni opposition rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front), the mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved or providing support to one or another faction (Iran, Russia, Turkey, the United States, as well as others).
The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes primarily against ISIL as well as some against government and pro-government targets. They have also deployed special forces and artillery units to engage ISIL on the ground. Since 2015, the U.S. has supported the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and its armed wing, the SDF, materially, financially, and logistically.
Turkey is directly involved in operations against the Syrian government since August 2016, not only participating in airstrikes against ISIL alongside the U.S.-led coalition, but also actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of northwestern Syria while engaging in significant ground combat with ISIL, the SDF, and the Syrian government.