The US envoy to the United Nations-hosted Conference on Disarmament says that Syria's presidency of the Geneva-based body is a "travesty."

A general view shows the sun setting over a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa on May 28, 2018.
A general view shows the sun setting over a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa on May 28, 2018. (AFP)

The Syrian regime has submitted a list of names to the United Nations as candidates for inclusion in a constitutional committee, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Monday.

Formation of the committee, which will rewrite the Syrian constitution, was agreed to at a Syrian peace conference in the Russian ski resort of Sochi in January.

It is up to de Mistura to decide whom to pick.

De Mistura's spokeswoman Reem Ismail said the UN was carefully studying the list of names but declined to comment further.

De Mistura has said he will select about 50 people, including supporters of the government, the opposition and independents.

The main opposition negotiating group has agreed to co-operate as long as the committee is formed under UN auspices.

The government at first agreed to the plan, but later rejected it. Its submission of a list of names to the UN follows a meeting earlier this month between regime leader Bashar al Assad and his main backer, Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has held the balance of power in Syria, both on the battlefield and in the UN-led peace talks, for the past two years. It has helped Assad recover huge amounts of lost territory in Syria without persuading him to agree to any political reforms.

The UN Security Council, which includes Russia and the United States, has mandated de Mistura to get a deal on a new constitution, new elections and a reform of Syria's governance.

But nine rounds of talks, most of them in Geneva, have failed to bring the warring sides together to end a seven-year-old conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.

Assad’s regime announced in 2012 that voters had overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a referendum, conducted amid civil war, that was derided as a sham by his critics at home and abroad.

The new basic law maintained real power with Assad but dropped a clause that in effect granted the regime leader's Baath Party a monopoly on power.

US calls Syrian presidency of disarmament body 'travesty'

The US envoy to the United Nations-hosted Conference on Disarmament says that Syria's presidency of the Geneva-based body is a "travesty."

Referring to killings and chemical weapons attacks allegedly committed against civilians by the Syrian regime, Robert Wood said on Tuesday "this is no normal presidency, and thus the US will not treat it as such."

Syria took up the rotating presidency on Monday. It will chair the body for a four-week period.

Wood said the "United States will not be silent" and called on other countries to "speak out" and send a "very similar and clear message about their abhorrence."

Wood walked out as Syria's envoy made opening remarks, but later returned.

The 65-nation conference is the world's most important disarmament negotiating forum, though it has achieved little in recent years.

Source: Reuters