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U.N. to make proposals to kickstart Syrian reform process

UNITED NATIONS/GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations will propose to Syria’s warring parties a timeline for elections and guidance on constitutional reform in a bid to revive stalled peace talks, mediator Staffan de Mistura told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

The Council launched the peace process two years ago with instructions to negotiate new governance for Syria, U.N.-supervised elections and constitutional reform. But the eighth round ended last week with no dialogue between the two sides.

The U.N. could make recommendations on a timeline to broker elections for all Syrians including refugees and internally displaced people because only such a process would be seen as legitimate by ordinary Syrians, de Mistura said.

It could also help to guide constitutional reform and help establish a constitutional commission and a national dialogue body, with the Syrian people solely responsible for writing and approving a new constitution.

“The time has come for the U.N. to provide some specific elaborations ... and therefore stimulate a wider conversation,” he said. “The U.N. has provided electoral assistance to a majority of U.N. member states ... so we do have experience.”

“These propositions are advanced in good faith by the U.N. in order to promote fresh thinking in all quarters,” he said.

He said the reform process would need the backing of parties in the Geneva talks and suggested they had already signed up to the overarching principles and he planned to set out his ideas early in 2018, when a ninth round of talks is pencilled in.

“I cannot hide my disappointment,” de Mistura said over the failed eighth round.

He said representatives of President Bashar al-Assad had also introduced a new condition by insisting that there could be no political movement until all sovereignty was restored and terrorism defeated in all Syrian territory.

That suggested any reforms would be “put aside for a long period”, which was very worrying, said de Mistura, a 47-year U.N. veteran known for his optimism and reliance on creative ideas to resolve crises that may appear intractable.

With fresh thinking, the U.N. mandate could be implemented, “even in the context of the realpolitik of 2018”, he said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Tom Miles; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg