UN envoy plans talks for new Syria constitution

De Mistura to sit down with senior officials from Syria-backers Russia, Iran as well as opposition supporter Turkey.

GENEVA - The UN envoy for Syria said Thursday he will try to kickstart work towards a new constitution for the war-ravaged country with a series of meetings in the coming weeks.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters he plans to sit down with senior officials from Damascus-backers Russia and Iran as well as opposition supporter Turkey at the United Nations on Monday and Tuesday.

He has also scheduled talks at the UN the following week with envoys from Britain, France, Germany, Jordan, the United States and Saudi Arabia -- another key opposition backer.

The talks are aimed at creating a commission to hammer out a post-war constitution, an effort that the UN has been asked to facilitate.

De Mistura said moving forward on a new constitution "is a key building block of a revitalised political process," to end the devastating seven-year conflict.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has submitted a list of 50 names to sit on the commission.

Syrian opposition groups have not done so yet and de Mistura said "there is a need for progress on that soon".

De Mistura's UN peace process has failed to make any headway through nine previous rounds.

Repeating a phrase he has used many times through the long diplomatic slog, de Mistura said he did not expect "a major breakthrough" on the constitutional process.

"But," he added, "I am confident that progress is possible."