The first session in nine months is aimed at making progress in drafting a new Syrian charter to pave the way for UN-sponsored elections.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen attends a news conference ahead of a meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, August 21, 2020.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen attends a news conference ahead of a meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, August 21, 2020. (Reuters)

The Syrian Constitutional Committee, which has begun its first session in nine months in Geneva as part of efforts to find a political solution to end Syria's war, was swiftly put "on hold" after three members tested positive for Covid-19, the United Nations has said.

Hours earlier on Monday, US Syria envoy James Jeffrey told reporters that the regime of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad had agreed "under some Russian pressure" to take part in the week-long talks.

The session, organised by UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, is aimed at making progress in drafting a new Syrian charter to pave the way for UN-sponsored elections, in line with a stalled 2015 UN Security Council resolution.

READ MORE: Syria's warring parties agree to Geneva talks - UN envoy 

The office of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen did not identify which three of the 45 members of the so-called small body of the Constitutional Committee were infected. One-third is nominated by the Syrian regime, one third by the opposition, and one third by civil society.

"Committee members were tested before they travelled to Geneva, and they were tested again on arrival, and the wearing of masks and strict social distancing measures were in place when they met at the Palais des Nations," the statement said.

"Following a constructive first meeting, the Third Session of the Constitutional Committee is currently on hold. The Office of the Special Envoy will make a further announcement in due course," it said, adding that Swiss authorities had been informed and contact-tracing was under way.

Jeffrey said that the latest US sanctions, under the Caesar Act passed by Congress, were having a "serious political and psychological impact" on Assad and his inner circle.

READ MORE: What the Caesar Act is and why it’s important 

"So we are going after them in any way we can and after their international holdings, any way that they or their banks touch dollars, they are in trouble," he said.

But Jeffrey also said, referring to a province in rebel-held northwestern Syria, "I have seen no indication that the Assad regime has given up its dream of a military victory beginning with Idlib."

Source: Reuters