United Nations: The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a peace process in Syria to end the five-year-long war through talks between the government and the opposition, but the draft is silent on the role of President Bashar Assad in a political transition.
In its first resolution to focus on the politics of ending the brutal war, the 15-nation Council, meeting at the Foreign Minister level here yesterday, asked UN chief Ban Ki-moon to convene government and opposition representatives in formal talks next month on a political transition as a step to lasting peace, in line with the 2012 Geneva Communique.
It called for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the UN to establish within six months "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance," setting a schedule for drafting a new constitution, with free and fair elections to be held within 18 months under UN supervision with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to vote.
It acknowledged the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, with the former to come into effect as soon as the sides have begun initial steps towards a political transition under UN auspices.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, sitting as President of the Council, said that through the resolution, the world body 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."
He stressed that the US is determined, with its coalition partners, to degrade and defeat the terrorist group ISIS. "The truth is that nothing would do more to bolster the fight against the terrorists than a broadly supported diplomatic process that gives the Syrian people a real choice- not a choice between President Bashar Assad or Daesh, but between war and peace, between the violent extremes and a newly empowered political center," Kerry said.
"That is why we have joined with so many of you in support of an urgent diplomatic initiative," he told the UNSC.
"It's our hope that a nationwide ceasefire can go into effect, excluding only Daesh and al-Nusrah and any other group that we might decide at some time to designate," he said.
The resolution does not make any mention of whether Assad would be able to run in new elections.
The resolution was adopted unanimously after Ban briefed the UNSC on his meeting earlier in the day with the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), comprised of the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries, including the US and Russia, which have been seeking a path forward for several months.
"As the first resolution to focus on the political path to resolving the crisis, this marks a very important step on which we must build," Ban told the Council.