U.N. Syria envoy to meet Turkey, Iran and Russia foreign ministers as ceasefire deadline draws near

The U.N. special envoy for Syria is set to meet with foreign ministers from Turkey, Iran and Russia in Geneva on Tuesday, hours before a Moscow-brokered ceasefire on a Turkish offensive in northeast Syria expires.

Geir Pedersen made the announcement on Monday when he called for the ceasefire in northeastern Syria to be extended amid preparations for the first meeting of Syria’s Constitutional Committee on Wednesday, Reuters reported. 

The committee is believed to play a key role in paving the way for political reforms and “free and fair” U.N.-supervised elections in war-torn Syria, which is in its eighth year of civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to flee.

Turkey on Monday said that Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had not yet fully withdrawn from a strip in northeast Syria, where a Moscow-brokered agreement to halt the operation is soon to expire.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched an operation in the region targeting the Syrian Kurdish forces it sees as an existential threat due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for over 30 years. Russia and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to ensure Kurdish forces withdraw from areas close to Syria’s border with Turkey and to launch joint patrols, just hours ahead of a deadline for Turkey to restart its assault on Syrian Kurdish forces.

“We are strongly appealing for the ceasefires to be respected and that we have also been appealing for a nationwide ceasefire to come into effect,” Reuters quoted Pedersen as saying in a news conference.

“We do believe that the fighting going on is just another proof of the importance to get a serious political process under way that can help sorting out the problems in all of Syria, including in the northeast and obviously also Idlib,” he said.

Turkey’s Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov are due to meet in the Swiss city as the ceasefire expires, a day ahead of the 150-member Syrian panel convenes under U.N. auspices on Wednesday, Retuers said.

The committee, in charge of drafting a new Syrian constitution, is set to include 150 people, 50 from the Syrian government, 50 from the opposition, and a further 50 chosen by the UN and members of Syrian civil society.

The YPG and SDF are not represented in the committee.