Friday, December 18

UN Security Council unanimously adopts Syrian roadmap resolution - BREAKING NEWS

"The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria."
Really? US Reportedly Constructing Airbase in Northeastern Syria for Airstrikes

All right, Pundita, don't rain on Lavrov and Kerry's parade. The resolution is better than nothing.

UN Security Council unanimously adopts Syrian roadmap resolution
Published time: 18 Dec, 2015 19:48 Edited time: 18 Dec, 2015 21:54

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria. The resolution envisions the formation of a unity government and calls for an immediate halt to any attacks on civilian targets.

Earlier, agencies leaked the draft of the document agreed by the UNSC permanent members right ahead of the session.

The four-page draft demanded that all parties to the Syrian conflict “immediately cease any attacks against civilians,” Reuters reported. A mechanism to monitor, verify and report the truce is to be worked out within a month.

The draft resolution would also ask the UN to convene formal talks on a transitional government. The talks between the regime and opposition are targeted for early January.

"The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria," says the draft.

Foreign ministers from 18 countries as well as the UN and Arab League representatives gathered in New York Friday to push the Syria roadmap. The group has already met twice in Vienna in the last six weeks and drafted a road map for the Syrian conflict reconciliation.

Apart from the UN and the Arab League, the group includes Russia, the US, the EU, the UK, Germany, France, China, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Qatar, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

During the conference preceding the UN Security Council meeting, new calls for Bashar Assad to step down were voiced, arguing that the Syrian President’s exit would facilitate the battle with terrorism, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“We confirmed our position that – as the UNSC has repeatedly stressed – there can be no pre-conditions to fight terrorism,” Lavrov said, adding that such calls did not make it into the draft. He once again said it is up to the Syrian people to determine the future of their country and its current leader.

“Only the Syrian people are to decide on their future, including the fate of President Assad – this is an answer, included into the resolution, to attempts to enforce outside will on the Syrians,”Lavrov said.

The conflict in Syria has lasted for more than four years with more than 300,000 killed.

Another goal of the talks was to work out a mechanism for establishing which rebel groups in Syria will be eligible to take part in the peace process. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front would be exempt from the truce.

For this purpose, Jordan, who was tasked with listing terrorist organizations in Syria, presented a document that includes 160 extremist groups, RIA Novosti reported, citing sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The list reflects positions of different sides,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judah, who presented the document during the ISSG talks in New York, also said, according to TASS.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution submitted jointly by Russian and the US which allows punishing individuals or companies involved in trade with Islamic State or other terror groups.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as well as with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Russia and the US managed to reach an agreement on some “critical” issues concerning Syria in particular. Kerry said that the positions of the US and Russia on Syria are “fundamentally very similar” and expressed readiness to further cooperation.


Here's AP's report:

'Agreement' on UN Draft on Syria, but No Mention of Assad

December 18, 2015 - 3:46 PM EST

U.N. Security Council members agreed Friday on a resolution on a peace process for Syria involving talks by representatives of the Damascus government and the opposition, but the draft says nothing on the critical issue of what role President Bashar Assad will play.
Diplomats had rushed to overcome divisions on the draft resolution while world powers held the latest talks on how to bring an end to the conflict, which is deep into its fifth year with well over 300,000 killed.
The resolution has been described as a rare gesture of unity on the Syria peace process by a council often deeply divided on the crisis.
The U.S. and French ambassadors to the U.N. both expressed optimism ahead of the Security Council meeting, set for 4 p.m. (2100 GMT).
The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, requests that U.N. Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon convene representatives of the Syrian government and opposition "to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis, with a target of early January 2016 for the initiation of talks."
Within six months, the process should establish "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance," with U.N.-supervised "free and fair elections" to be held within 18 months.
The draft calls the transition Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, stressing that the "Syrian people will decide the future of Syria."
The draft also says cease-fire efforts should move forward in parallel with the talks, and it asks Ban to report within a month of the resolution's adoption on a way to monitor the cease-fire.
The draft notes that the cease-fire "will not apply to offensive or defensive actions" against groups considered terrorist organizations, meaning that airstrikes by Russia, France and the U.S.-led coalition apparently would not be affected.
Meanwhile Friday, some 20 foreign ministers tackled those and other difficult issues for a possible end to Syria's civil war, including sorting out which Syrian groups will represent the opposition in peace talks in the new year.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said he presented lists submitted from each country of groups they consider terrorist organizations. He said some countries "sent 10, 15, 20 names" and others more.
"Now I think there will be follow-up steps in terms of countries meeting again to set criteria which will help filter the list," said Judeh, whose country is tasked with putting the final list together.
Others around the table included the United States, key European nations, Saudi Arabia and top Syria allies Russia and Iran.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two most important issues are launching political negotiations among Syrian parties and implementing a U.N.-monitored cease-fire. "Without peace talks, the cease-fire cannot be sustained. Without a cease-fire, peace talks cannot continue to produce results," he said.
Wang noted the "severe threat posed by international terrorism," a reference to the Islamic State group, which has exploited the chaos to seize large parts of Syria.
A peace plan agreed to last month by 20 nations meeting in Vienna sets a Jan. 1 deadline for the start of negotiations between Assad's government and opposition groups.
That deadline is "too ambitious a timetable," the U.N. representative for the Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, told reporters Friday. Najib Ghadbian estimated that a month of preparation is needed.
Ghadbian also said a comprehensive solution to the conflict requires "the removal of all foreign troops from Syria, all of them," including Russia, which began airstrikes there in September. The strikes are focused on more moderate forces fighting Assad in areas where the Islamic State group has little or no presence.
The coordinator of the opposition team that will negotiate with the Syrian government, former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, said in Saudi Arabia on Friday that Assad should have no role during a transitional period. He also called for "confidence-building measures" such as the lifting of a siege imposed on rebel-held areas and a halt to airstrikes.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed.

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