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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

World Powers Agree on UN Plan for Syria

by Pamela Dockins October 30, 2015

World powers involved in talks on Syria's political future have agreed to a U.N.-led process that involves talks between the Syrian government and opposition and also to explore a ceasefire that would still allow strikes against terrorist groups.

The plans were outlined in a Friday news conference held by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura.

It followed a seven-hour meeting, on Syria, that included diplomats from the 17 countries, plus the United Nations and European Union. Officials said the group agreed to meet again within two weeks.

Kerry said the diplomatic talks in Vienna complimented stepped up U.S. military efforts in Syria. A senior U.S. official announced Friday that President Barack Obama had authorized a small complement of U.S. forces to deploy to northern Syria.

"We are employing a two-pronged approach," said Kerry. "We are intensifying our counter-Daesh campaign and we are intensifying our diplomatic efforts in order to end the conflict."

Kerry said the U.S. believed the two steps were "mutually reinforcing" but said the timing of the Obama administration announcement and the Vienna talks was coincidental.

Lavrov also highlighted progress made by the group but said there was no agreement on President Bashar al-Assad's destiny.

He said Russia believes it is up to the Syrian people to decide their country's political future. The U.S. and its allies say Assad cannot be part of any long-term political solution for Syria.

The UN political plan

Kerry said under the U.N.-led plan, Syrian government representatives and opposition members would work to establish a political process that leads to "credible, inclusive" governance in Syria and then a new constitution and elections.

Under the plan, the elections would be held under U.N.-supervision.

Lavrov, speaking through a translator, said the political group should create the basis for an inclusive administration.

First meeting of its kind

In addition to Russia and Iran, the talks included Iran's rival Saudi Arabia, a country more aligned with the U.S. position that President Assad must not be part of any long-term political resolution to Syria's crisis.

Notably absent from Friday's talks on Syria's political future were representatives from the Syrian government and the country's moderate opposition groups.

De Mistura said Syrian government and opposition groups had told him that they would not be able to reach any consensus without support from regional countries and the broader international community. He said the groups believed there would then be enough "critical mass" for them to come and meet.

De Mistura said the Vienna talks, on Friday, were a step in that direction.

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