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Syria talks ‘on hold’ as participants test positive for COVID-19 | News



United Nations-mediated talks in Geneva involving the Syrian government, opposition and civil society have been put “on hold” after three participants tested positive for COVID-19, just hours after the meetings started for the first time in nine months.

The office of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen on Monday did not identify the affected members of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, tasked with amending the war-torn country’s constitution.

The full constitutional review committee is made up of 150 members divided equally three ways into government, opposition and civil society groups. But only 15 delegates from each of those groups were expected to take part in this week’s small-scale meeting.

“Following a constructive first meeting, the Third Session of the Constitutional Committee is currently on hold. The Office of the Special Envoy will make a further announcement in due course,” the office said, adding that Swiss authorities had been informed and contact-tracing was under way.

Syria’s warring sides were gearing up for a week of talks for the first time since a failed attempt in November last year. So far, they have made little progress in ending the country’s devastating nine-year conflict.

Earlier in the day, Ahmad al-Kuzbari, who is heading the government delegation, and Hadi al-Bahra, leading the opposition delegation, waved as they entered the building, but delegates did not speak to reporters.

Iran, Russia, Turkey and the United States – all stakeholders in Syria – were expected to be on the sidelines. The meeting is the first of its kind since the coronavirus pandemic derailed previous efforts at negotiations.

Moving ‘forward’

On Sunday, Pedersen said he had met co-chairs of the government and opposition delegations and with civil society representatives over the weekend.

“I am looking forward to a week of substantial discussions on the agenda and moving the process forward,” the Norwegian diplomat wrote on Twitter.

The Constitutional Committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later.

The second round of talks, planned for late November, never got going after a disagreement on the agenda prevented government and opposition negotiators from the meeting.

Constitutional review is a central part of the UN’s peace plan for Syria, which was defined by Security Council resolution 2254, adopted in December 2015.

Pedersen on Friday stressed the urgent need to build confidence between the parties.

He told reporters nobody expected “a miracle or a breakthrough”; rather the meeting is about looking towards identifying areas where progress might be made.

Amendments to the current constitution that was passed in February 2012 by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the uprising the previous year has been at the core of the drafting group’s work.

At the time of the committee’s establishment, Joshua Landis, head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera it was “hard to hold up much hope” for the committee’s viability. 

“The Syrian government has put its foot down and said that only Syrians are going to decide the future of Syria … It has won the war so it’s unlikely to allow for outside powers and the UN to change the constitution very much,” Landis said.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge



Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.



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Is Johnson Byabashaija courting Enid Kukunda for protection?



The very amiable Commissioner General of Prisons Canon Johnson Byabashaija was recently sighted with President Y K Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s second wife Enid Kukunda as the two had a very secretive meeting in one of the city hangouts.

According to our informers, the two seem to be in a deep conversation that they wouldn’t allow a housefly pass around. However, sources further reveal that Byabashaija could have courted the second lady for protection given that he has amassed a lot of wealth and could be a subject of investigations.

Our sources reveal that Byabashaija who carries himself as Mr.I know it all hasn’t met Madam Enid alone but a host of others with connections to the centre of power in the country.

We will bring you more detail

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Bobi Wine released on Bail



Presidential candidate and kyadondo East legislator Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu has been realeased on bail by the Iganga magistrates court where he appeared to defend himself against accusations of flouting COVID-19 campaign SOPs. A defiant Kyagulanyi took the opportunity to blast the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, whom he accuses of using state power to quell dissident.

This follows a tense week that has seen thousands injured and several dead following Hon. Kyagulanyi’s arrest earlier this week. Demonstrations and riots erupted in many parts of the country and heavy police and army deployment was seen all over the country.

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