A committee to create a new Syrian constitution should convene by the end of the year, according to the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey, who met at an Istanbul summit to discuss the deadly conflict on Saturday.
Meeting in an Ottoman-era mansion, the leaders set aside divisions over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to agree on the importance of laying the groundworks to establish the committee “as soon as possible” as a prelude to U.N.-backed free and fair elections.
The 150-member committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution was agreed by participants at a Syrian peace conference in Russia in January.
The agreement concluded a third of the committee would chosen by the government, a third by opposition groups and a third by the United Nations.
But the U.N. plan for a committee to draft a new constitution ran aground this week after Damascus blocked the proposal, provoking anger among western powers.
U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura, who attended the Istanbul summit, said the Syrian government would not accept a role for the United Nations in selecting a list.
Turkey and Russia have held previous talks with Iran on the Syrian conflict, in efforts that have often been greeted with suspicion in the West, but Saturday's summit was the first to include the European Union's two most significant national leaders.
Russia, which supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, agreed to create a buffer zone around Idlib, but violence has escalated dramatically leading up to the summit.
On Friday, Syria's U.N. envoy Bashar Jaafari maintained that the buffer zone is temporary and that Idlib would eventually revert to government control.
Meanwhile France said it hopes the ceasefire would be extended to enable aid convoys to get through to Idlib, home to three million people.
Syria's war has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions since it began in March 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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