ADDS US REACTION IN GRAFS 6-8
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The UN secretary-general announced Monday the formation of a body to write a new constitution for Syria following more than eight years of war that have devastated the country and its people.
Antonio Guterres said the constitutional committee "can and must be the beginning of" a political process to end the devastating conflict.
"I am pleased to announce the agreement of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Negotiations Commission for a credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee that will be facilitated by the UN in Geneva," Guterres said during the 74th General Assembly in New York.
"The constitutional committee’s launch and work must be accompanied by concrete actions to build trust and confidence as my Special Envoy discharges his mandate to facilitate a broader political process forward," Guterres said, thanking Turkey, Russia and Iran for diplomatic efforts to form the group.
At a summit on Syria with Russia and Iran hosted by Turkey earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the participants would urge the constitutional committee to begin work as soon as possible.
The U.S. welcomed Guterres' announcement, saying that "while much work remains to be done" it is nonetheless an "encouraging step toward reaching a political solution."
"The Assad regime must accept the will of the Syrian people to live in peace and not be threatened by targeted violence, arbitrary detention, starvation, and brutality," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
"Vicious attacks by the Assad regime and its allies against innocent Syrians in Idlib must cease immediately for the humanitarian crisis to end and for the political process to go forward," she added.
Syria has been gripped by conflict since 2011 when demonstrations seeking democratic reforms were fiercely cracked down on by the Syrian regime.
More than half a million people have died in the ensuing conflict and millions more have been displaced as large swaths of Syria have been reduced to rubble.