July 10, 2019 / 2:05 PM / in 9 days

U.N., Syria close to agreeing constitutional committee: envoy

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 5, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - The United Nations is close to agreement with Syria on setting up a constitutional committee, a long-awaited step in a stalled peace process, the U.N. Syria envoy said on Wednesday.

“I believe we have made a very solid progress and we are very close to have agreement on establishing the constitutional committee,” Gerd Pedersen told reporters after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.

The United Nations wants to convene the committee as a next step in efforts to find a political solution to end the war in Syria, but there has been no agreement so far on who should be on it.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said significant progress had been made in the talks, but also reiterated its previous stance that the constitutional committee should be a purely Syrian affair.

Pedersen also called for a return to stability in Idlib province, where a government offensive has targeted the last major rebel stronghold, and said a truce there agreed last year between Russia and Turkey should come back into force.

Russia is along with Iran the main supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, who now controls most of the country, while Turkey backs some of the rebel groups in Idlib and adjacent areas.

Reporting By Kinda Makieh in Damascus, writing by Angus McDowall in Beirut; Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean

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