October 26, 2016

U.N. council endorses Syria peace plan

United Nations Security Council members are expected to adopt the resolution this Friday. (File photo: Reuters)

The United Nations Security Council on Friday 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.

Earlier, the five United Nations Security Council veto powers have agreed on the text of the draft resolution.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power phoned the remaining 10 members of the council to brief them on the text, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The text called for the U.N. 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 draft said. It also would endorse the continued battle to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who have seized territory in Syria and Iraq.

The deal on a draft resolution came on the sidelines of a meeting of the so-called International Syria Support Group met at New York’s Palace Hotel.

During a break in the talks, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said he had presented a document compiling the groups each country attending considered to be a “terrorist” organization.

“Each country sent its own view. 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 labeled terrorist groups).”

The road map, which also calls for a nationwide ceasefire that would not apply to ISIS, 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 U.N.-led peace talks with the Syrian government set to begin in January.

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 Saudi-hosted discussions.

Foreign ministers from 17 countries, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, U.S. 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.

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