The resolution gives a U.N. blessing to a plan negotiated
previously in Vienna that calls for a ceasefire, talks between the
Syrian government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to
create a unity government and hold elections.
But the obstacles to ending the nearly five-year civil war remain
daunting, with no side in the conflict able to secure a clear
military victory. Despite their agreement, the major powers are
bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition as well as on
the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the
time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for
a government that the long-suffering people of that battered land
can support," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the 15-nation
council after the vote.
The resolution also calls for the U.N. to present the council with
options for monitoring a ceasefire within one month.
Talks between Syria's government and opposition should begin in
early January, the resolution said, though Kerry said mid-to-late
January was more likely. It also endorsed the continued battle to
defeat Islamic State militants who have seized large swaths of both
Syria and neighboring Iraq.
It was one of the strongest appeals for peace by the council,
divided for years on the issue of Syria's war, since Russia and
China began vetoing a series of Western-drafted resolutions on the
conflict in October 2011.
The resolution came after Moscow and Washington clinched a deal on a
text. The two powers have had very different views on what should
happen in Syria, where Islamic State militants control considerable
territory that Western governments suspect has been a launch pad for
attacks on Western nations and Russia.
Kerry made clear that there were still differences on the future of
Assad, a close ally of Russia and Iran who Western countries want
ousted, as well as on the question of which Syrian opposition groups
will have a seat at the table in talks with the government.
"We are under no illusions about the obstacles that exist," Kerry
said. "There obviously remain sharp differences within the
international community, especially about the future of President
The resolution does not address Assad's fate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said of the resolution: "This
is a clear response to attempts to impose a solution from the
outside on Syrians on any issues, including those regarding its
"CHAMPIONS OF DEMOCRACY"
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the talks between the
Syrian government and opposition would only succeed if there were
credible guarantees on the departure of Assad.
"How could this man unite a people that he has in part massacred?"
Fabius said. "The idea that he could once again stand for elections
is unacceptable to us."
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said Assad's government was
prepared to take part in the talks in good faith.
"I reiterate the readiness of the Syrian government to participate
effectively on any sincere effort where the Syrians will determine
their choices through dialogue under Syrian leadership and not
foreign intervention," he said, adding that all countries should
coordinate with his government.
Agreement on a resolution came after a meeting of the so-called
International Syria Support Group at New York's Palace Hotel.
[to top of second column]
Foreign ministers from 17 countries, including Lavrov, Kerry and
other European and Middle Eastern ministers, as well as top
diplomats from regional rivals Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, were
in New York for the meetings.
During a break in Friday's talks, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser
Judeh said he had presented a document compiling the groups each
country attending considered to be a "terrorist" organization.
Kerry said other countries would help Jordan draw up a final list.
As with the question of Assad's fate, diplomats say it will be
extremely difficult to reach consensus on a list of terrorist groups
to be excluded and legitimate members of an opposition who would
participate in the negotiations.
The Syria road map, which also calls for a nationwide ceasefire that
would not apply to Islamic State, Nusra Front and some other
militant groups, was previously worked out in two rounds of
ministerial talks in Vienna.
Diplomats said the main problem in the negotiations on the
resolution involved Russian and Iranian concerns about how to refer
to a bloc of opposition groups that would join U.N.-led peace talks
with the Syrian government.
Western officials say a recent meeting in Saudi Arabia of opposition
figures made significant headway in coming up with an opposition
bloc, though Russia and Iran have questioned the legitimacy of the
In a dig at Saudi Arabia, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad
Zarif wrote in The Guardian on Friday that it was "utterly absurd
that those who have denied their own population the most rudimentary
tenets of democracy ... are now self-declared champions of democracy
The Riyadh conference agreed to set up a 34-member secretariat to
supervise peace talks, and that committee will also select the
opposition's negotiating team.
Earlier this week, diplomats said some progress had been made on the
most difficult sticking point in the talks: Assad's fate.
They said Russia had indicated it had no problem with the eventual
ouster of Assad at the end of a transition period, though it would
not admit that publicly.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Parisa Hafezi, Parisa
Hafezi, Arshad Mohammed and Michelle Nichols; Writing by Louis
Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown, James
Dalgleish and Leslie Adler)
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