UN Security Council agrees Syria peace plan

Dfferences remain on Assad's future but text offers rare agreement between Russia and US

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to members of the Security Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York which unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a Syria peace process. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to members of the Security Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York which unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a Syria peace process. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

 

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a Syria peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter million lives.

“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,” US secretary of state John Kerry told the 15-nation council after the vote.

The resolution came after Russia and the United States 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.

Mr Kerry made clear that there were still differences on the future of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Russia and Iran who Western countries want ousted.

“We are under no illusions about the obstacles that exist. There obviously remain sharp differences within the international community, especially about the future of president Assad,” Mr Kerry added.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said about 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 president.”

The resolution does not touch on the question of Mr Assad’s fate.

The text called for the UN to present the council with options for monitoring a ceasefire within one month of adoption of the resolution. It also backed a timeline previously agreed in Vienna for talks between the government on a unity government and opposition, and eventual elections.

The talks between Syria’s government and opposition should begin in early January, the resolution said.

It also endorsed the continued battle to defeat Islamic State militants who have seized large swaths of both Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

Sidelines

Nasser Judeh

“Some countries sent 15 to 20, others sent more,” he told reporters. “It’s a launch pad. There will be follow-up steps to set the criteria (for which are to be labelled terrorist groups).”

The road map, which also calls for a nationwide ceasefire that would not apply to Islamic State, Nusra Front and some other militant groups, was 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 UN-led peace talks with the Syrian government set to begin in January.

Regional rivals

Saudi Arabia

Foreign ministers from 17 countries, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, US secretary of state John 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 Syria meetings.

In a dig at Saudi Arabia, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in The Guardian yesterday 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 in Syria”.

Iran, like Russia, backs Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who the Saudis and western powers want ousted.

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.

– (Reuters)