By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia hopes that an agreement can be reached soon under U.N. auspices on forming Syria's new constitutional committee and that it can convene in Geneva as early as September, Moscow's envoy said on Friday.
Formation of a constitutional committee is key to political reforms and new elections meant to unify Syria and end an eight-year-old war which has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced about half of Syria's pre-war 22 million population.
Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said in Damascus last month after talks there that the United Nations was close to agreement with Syria on setting up the constitutional committee, a long-awaited step in the stalled peace process.
Gennady Gatilov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told a briefing on Friday that he expected Pedersen to announce agreement on its composition soon after the conclusion of negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Asked whether the body might convene by year-end, Gatilov replied: "Even earlier, hopefully in September."
"It is a significant progress and it opens the way for first of all starting the work of the constitutional committee and in general the way to a political solution of the Syrian crisis," he said.
Jenifer Fenton, Pedersen's spokeswoman, said: "The Special Envoy looks forward toward the conclusion of the composition and the rules of procedures for the Constitutional Committee. Russia’s active support of the UN political effort toward ensuring a comprehensive political solution that is Syrian owned and led, and in line with Security Council resolution 2254 - is appreciated."
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday the process of establishing a Constitutional Committee had reached the final stage.
"We currently objected to one name. Russia is doing what is necessary for this person to be changed. In the process ahead of us, we want to come together as the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran and announce this," Cavusoglu said speaking at an ambassadors meeting in Ankara.
(additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)