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UN envoy, Syria FM hold ‘substantial’ political process talks

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen says he has held “detailed substantial” talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on efforts to find a political solution to the country’s eight-year-long war.

According to Press TV, Pedersen told reporters after the meeting in Damascus on Sunday “We have had very detailed substantial discussions.”

“We are now addressing all the issues so all the issues are at the table,” the Norwegian diplomat added without giving more information.

The UN envoy pointed to his planned talks with other Syrian officials later in the day and said, “Let’s see how we are able to proceed later this afternoon.”

Meanwhile, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that the UN diplomat and Syrian foreign minister exchanged views on the ongoing efforts to advance and complete the political process in Syria, including moves to set up a committee tasked with drawing up a post-war constitution.

It added that the two sides spoke about Pedersen’s diplomatic activities since his last visit to Damascus last month.

Pedersen arrived in Damascus at the head of a delegation on Saturday, in his third official visit to the war-ravaged country since assuming his post in January.

He became the fourth UN negotiator aiming to settle the Syrian conflict following the resignation of his predecessor Staffan de Mistura due to family reasons.

During their meeting in March, the Syrian foreign minister and deputy prime minister told Pedersen that his country’s constitution is a “purely sovereign affair” and emphasized that Damascus would allow no foreign interference in that area.

“The constitution and all matters related to it are a sovereign issue that should be decided by Syrians themselves without any foreign interference,” Muallem said.

Writing a new constitution for a post-war Syria is part of a potential political solution to end the eight-year crisis in the Arab country. To that end, an agreement was made in the Russian city of Sochi last year for a UN-backed Constitutional Committee to be formed composed of 50 members from the incumbent Damascus government, 50 opposition members, and another 50 independent figures chosen by the world body.

In a joint statement issued back in December, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed to step up efforts aimed at convening the first session of a UN-sponsored Syrian Constitutional Committee early next year in a bid to begin a viable peace process to the country’s seven-year-old conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reading out the joint statement after meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu, and outgoing UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva, said the work of the new body “should be governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement.”

In an address to an Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital of Tunis late in March, Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres stressed the importance of guaranteeing Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in any resolution on the conflict in the Arab country.

“Any resolution of the Syrian conflict must guarantee the unity, [and] the territorial integrity of Syria, including the occupied Golan,” he said.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.