Based on the SCR 2254 (December 2015), UN Special Envoy to Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura organized what is called Geneva III or the Intra-Syria talks. Mr de Mistura created a flexible framework that allowed him to approach, engage, and connect with different parties as necessary. Additionally, he created two mechanisms to engage with Syrian women (WAB) and Syrian civil society (CSSR) in addition to the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition. This approach was based on the feedback from the consultation process that was conducted in 2015; many civil society organizations including CCSD participated in those consultations.

The first round of the talks were intended to begin on January, 25th 2016, the special envoy declared that they would start on January 29th, 2016, and the official start date of this round was announced as February 1st, 2016. Three main priorities were outlined: cessation of hostilities, humanitarian aids and stopping the hostilities of ISIS. These were difficult issues to discuss and difficult to achieve consensus on priorities which led to only having two days of talks that included a lot of shuttle diplomacy between the UN and the different Syrian actors. The Syrian talks were suspended on February 3rd with the next round to be held after three weeks.

During February, 2016, Syrians felt momentum and hope for a peace solution. The co-chair of ISSG made the announcement of the nationwide ceasefire starting from February 27, 2016, which was endorsed by the security council through SCR2268,  and also about ISSG’s creation of  two task forces (humanitarian and cessation of hostilities). ​​This helped humanitarian aid convoys reach more people in besieged and hard to reach areas following the nationwide cessation of hostilities that began on February 27.

This round of talks was postponed and instead it started on March 14, 2016 after there had been good progress with regards to cessation of hostilities and distribution of humanitarian aid. During these talks good progress was made in terms of developing the living document that focused on the twelve principles governing the political process.

This round of the Intra-Syrian talks lasted for two weeks from April 13 until April 27th, 2016. During this round there was fear of a total collapse of the cessation of hostilities. Yet, there was some progress in terms of understanding the different points of views about the political transition. One of the commonalities identified among all parties was the urgent need for credible political transition.

It was not feasible to hold another round of the Intra-Syrian talks until February 2017.  During this time in September 2016, the United States and Russia agreed on and announced another cessation of hostilities agreement. The UN facilitated discussions between different parties in the opposition and encouraged the establishment of the Syrian Negotiation Commission to act as the main negotiation party to negotiate with the regime party on behalf of the Syrian opposition.

The fourth round of the intra-Syrian talks were held between February 23 and March 3 in Geneva. Following the parameters set out in resolution 2254, Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura proposed to discuss three “baskets” of issues in parallel: governance, constitution and elections. Following a request by the Syrian government delegation to add a fourth “basket” to discuss counter-terrorism, Mr. De Mistura added this fourth basket which would also tackle issues related to security governance and confidence-building measures. The UN Security Council welcomed this announcement as a clear agenda for future negotiations. Mr. De Mistura acknowledged that all participants stayed in the talks and were serious in the discussions which would allow for another round of talks during March 2017.

All the invited actors to the fifth round of the intra-Syrian talks participated in the details and content of the discussions, which were serious,  interactive and achieved some progress in the negotiations.

The sixth round of the Intra-Syrian talks brought together the Syrian actors to discuss the different baskets, yet at the end of this round there was a proposition by the special envoy to create a consultative mechanism on legal and constitutional issues which initiated the journey of launching the constitutional process.

In a briefing delivered on June 27th 2017, ahead of Geneva VII talks, Mr de Mistura announced: the establishment of a technical consultative process that would help in accelerating the real talks. This technical consultative process was to develop relevant options on constitutional process.

After this round of talks and before the eighth one, Saudi Arabia convened the Riyadh Conference 2 on November 22, 2017 with a wide range of Syrian opposition groups. There was good progress on unifying the opposition voice and a commitment to press on with the issues of detainees and besieged areas, such as in Eastern Ghouta, in addition to the commitment for a political process based on SCR2254.

Round eight lasted for six days. This round focused on agreeing on a common agenda between the negotiating parties. The opposition’s priorities continued to be the political transition and formation of the transitional government while the regime’s priorities continued to be about discussing terrorism and the regime refused to discuss the constitutional process and the presidential elections.

In this ninth round of the Intra-Syrian talks, the Special Envoy (SE) met the delegations of the Syrian Government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission within the framework of the UN-facilitated political process on Syria in Vienna. The SE  focused on the constitutional basket as a step towards the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2254. While in Vienna, the SE consulted delegations from several countries. The Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, also followed the deliberations closely and held high-level consultations. During this round, the SE was briefed on preparations for the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi on 29 and 30 January 2018 and took note of the Russian Federation’s statement that the outcome of the Congress would be brought to Geneva as a contribution to the intra-Syrian talks process under the UN umbrella in accordance with resolution 2254. De Mistura deferred the decision to participate in the Sochi Congress to the Secretary General. During this round, the negotiation regarding the formation of the constitutional committee took place.

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