Nations weigh ceasefire, transition in Syria

2015-10-30 19:19
Russian strikes in Syria. (AP)

Russian strikes in Syria. (AP)

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Vienna - The United States, Russia and other regional and world powers were considering a new plan on Friday to set up a ceasefire in Syria within the next four to six months, followed by the formation of a transition government featuring President Bashir al-Assad and opposition members, officials said.

How long Assad could remain in power under the transition was still unclear.

The Western officials said the United States and its partners supported the timetable as a first phase toward ending the four-and-a-half year civil war that has killed more than 250 000 people and uprooted more than 11 million, leading to the growing terrorist threat of the Islamic State and sparking a migrant crisis throughout Europe.

Earlier calls

They said an agreement hadn't yet been reached, but that the 19 nations meeting in Vienna were considering the idea.

The officials said that a follow-up meeting was expected as early as next week, with top diplomats possibly returning to Austria's capital.

As the day of discussions got underway, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was hopeful of finding a path forward. They included Iran for the first time, making it the broadest gathering of nations yet to discuss Syria's future. Another key supporter of Assad, Russia, was present, along with many of Washington's most influential Arab and European allies.

Assad's fate was at the centre of discussions. The US, Saudi Arabia and others have tempered their earlier calls for Assad to leave immediately and now say he can remain in office for months as part of a transition if he agrees to resign at the end of the process. 

Opposition groups

Russia and Iran are both providing Assad military assistance and say Syria's leadership shouldn't be dictated by outside forces.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius only said Assad should step aside "at one moment or another." Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said earlier this week that Assad must quit his post "within a specific timeframe."

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said his country and Saudi Arabia had exchanged lists of opposition groups that should be involved in future peace talks - an important question as those fighting Assad range from al-Queda-linked militants to self-styled moderates.

Read more on:    us  |  russia  |  austria  |  iran  |  syria

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