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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finally UN endorses peace process for Syria

U.N. Security Council members unanimously approved a U.N. resolution Friday endorsing a peace process for Syria including a cease-fire and talks between the Damascus government and the opposition, but the draft makes no mention of the most contentious issue — the future role of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The resolution makes clear that the blueprint it endorses will not end the conflict, deep into its fifth year with well over 300,000 killed, because "terrorist groups," including the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front, are not part of the cease-fire.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised "the unprecedented degree of unity" in the council, which has been stymied in the past over a political solution in Syria, and called the resolution "a milestone."
Foreign ministers from 17 countries met for more than five hours on how to implement their call in Vienna last month for a cease-fire and the start of negotiations between the government and opposition in early January. At the same time, diplomats worked to overcome divisions on the text of the resolution.
The resulting agreement "gives the Syrian people a real choice, not between Assad and Daesh, but between war and peace," Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State extremists.
"We're under no illusions about the obstacles that exist ... especially about the future of President Assad" where "sharp differences" remain, Kerry said.
He made clear that Assad must go if there is to be peace in Syria, saying that "Assad has lost the ability ... to unite the country."

But Kerry later told reporters that the United States and the opposition had eventually realized that demanding Assad's departure up front in the process was "in fact, prolonging the war."
Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura made clear that the previously envisioned Jan. 1 start to peace talks was unlikely. De Mistura said invitations to the talks will go out in January, at least.

Kerry said a start to the talks in the middle or end of the month would be more reasonable. "In January, we expect to be at the table and implement a full cease-fire," he said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council that Syria was "in ruins," singling out besieged areas where "thousands of people have been forced to live on grass and weeds," which he called "outrageous."
"This marks a very important step on which we must build," Ban said of Friday's resolution.

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