İrem UZUN -TDO- The Syrian Constitutional Committee -made up of opposition, civil society, and regime members- began its work on Wednesday in Geneva with UN facilitation. Rival sides in Syria's long-running war have sat face to face for the first time after almost eight-and-a-half years of war, in an attempt to begin work on a new governing document.

Special UN Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, together with the Constitutional Committee co-chairs, Ahmad Kuzbari from the Syrian regime and Hadi Al-bahra from the opposition, launched the start of the committee’s work in an opening ceremony with its 150 members -50 each from the government, the opposition, and civil society. "This is a historic moment," Pedersen told the opening ceremony. Pedersen acknowledged it was hard for the 150 people to be in the same room, but the very fact the meeting was happening could be considered a sign of hope.

Opposition Co-Chair Al-bahra, for his part, said “terrorism cannot be stopped with terrorism…we must change the current situation and must change the way we think and stop thinking emotionally. We must start listening to each other and determining the commonalities between one another”. Kuzbari, leading the regime delegation, affirmed that they would work sincerely on everything that can improve conditions for the public. He warned that the presence of any foreign forces on their territory ''threatens the entire political process".

Initial face-to-face discussions are expected to start on Thursday, after which a 45-strong body -15 from each bloc- will start work on drafting a new constitution that should lead to UN-supervised elections. Decisions will be taken by consensus where possible, and otherwise by a majority of 75%, so that no one bloc can dictate the outcomes.

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