GENEVA Syria's opposition delegation at peace talks in Geneva spent the weekend thinking about the basics of how to run a country, in response to questions given to them by the mediator of the talks, according to a text seen by Reuters on Monday.
U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura has said he dreads a post-war Syria collapsing into the kind of chaos experienced by Iraq and Libya.
He has also insisted that the future of Syria must be entirely in the hands of Syrians, and issues he asked negotiators to think about included reform of the presidency, democratic control of the security services and representation of ethnic groups.
De Mistura describes Syria's political transition as "the mother of all issues", but its definition has not been narrowed beyond a U.N. resolution that says the talks should set up "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance".
He said on Friday he would give "homework" to each side, but it was not clear if he had given the same questions to the government delegation, whose head insisted on Monday that the fate of President Bashar al-Assad would play no part in the talks.
Negotiators from the opposition High Negotiations Committee were asked 29 questions to explore what the U.N. resolution on the transition means, defining the phrase and probing the practicalities of bringing such governance into being.
"What are the most appropriate bodies or mechanisms that can perform the duties of governing and its functions?," the U.N. document asked. "How can this body or bodies be set up?"
The questions include how to ensure participation of women in the government, what its relationship should be with legislative and judicial bodies, and how to represent Syria's different geographical areas.
Helping to steer the process are Nicolas Michel, a Swiss expert on international law, who advises de Mistura on constitutional and legal issues, and Russia's Vitaly Naumkin, de Mistura's political advisor.
A western diplomat said the opposition delegates had spent all weekend working on the questions, but he said he was not aware of the content. "They’re being extremely private about this," he said.
(Writing by Tom Miles; editing by John Stonestreet)
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