All attention focussed on Astana to see Moscow’s seriousness about pushing for a cease-fire, releasing 13,000 people that are detained in the Syrian regime’s prisons and delivering aid to besieged areas after there was a glimmer of hope for a peaceful solution to end the relentless war waged by the Russian backed Syrian regime that destroyed the country and wiped out its people. Syrians were therefore surprised by a war over the constitution in the name of changes to it – as if the war in Syria that has destroyed everything during the last 6 years is not enough, and as if the occupation carried out by the Russians, Iranians and 66 militias that are fighting alongside the regime is not enough. On top of all that, they want to introduce a constitution written by the Russians.
It is an international precedent when a country dares to write a constitution for another country that is imposed from outside of it. This is what Russia did when it submitted a new draft constitution for Syria to replace the current constitution of 2012. The draft constitution has been prepared by Russian experts in order to speed up the political process according to what the Russian president’s envoy to Syria Alexander Avrntiev announced to reporters at the end of the Astana talks. As if the crisis in Syria is in need of more complexity. Instead of giving the Syrian people the right to choose its political, economic and social system without interference from any country whether friendly or hostile, a country that is considered as an occupying country by a large number of Syrians and the world is writing Syria’s constitution. Does this not confirm that Russia is trying to maintain its control over Syria and protect its military, political and economic interests in any way possible?
In March 2016, the United States and Russia agreed to set a time frame for the regime and the opposition in Syria to write a new draft constitution for the country. This agreement did not mention in any way that it would happen in this way, a way that contradicts the most basic principles and diplomatic norms.
The creation of the Syrian constitution by any external party does not contribute to solving the crisis which may see a glimmer of light in Astana. Russia represents Assad completely and by presenting this draft constitution, even if it is the best constitution written and most suitable for Syria, the Russian position that seeks to promote the country as a superpower that is able to bring all Syrian parties together to the negotiating table, will suffer from a setback.
Reaching a lasting peace is a lofty goal but the drafting of a Syrian constitution by foreigners is a clear indication of Moscow’s real desire to solve the Syrian crisis according to its interests and the interests of the regime which certainly will not be from the same angle that Syrians look at their country.
Apart from leaks that disclosed that the Russian wording of the draft constitution omitted the word “Arab” from the “Syrian Arab Republic” to make it the “Syrian Republic”, the principle of foreigners writing the Syrian constitution shows that “Moscow does not respect the Syrian state”. This is the same expression that a Russian source used last year when he denied that his country had presented a draft constitution to Syria. Does Russia’s change of mind and the fact that it presented the draft constitution confirm its lack of respect for Syrians and Syria? It does appear so. In addition to this, it also shows that Russia is not serious about presenting itself as a neutral party between the regime and the opposition.