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Vienna Meeting Sets Up Plan For Political Transition In Syria


The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura

Top officials meeting in Vienna for Syrian peace talks have agreed on a timeline for a political transition in Syria that is aimed at ending the country's civil war.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting on November 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an agreement for talks between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to start on January 1.

According to a joint statement released by the United Nations on behalf of the parties to the talks, the negotiations between the Syrian sides are to establish "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian" transitional government that would set a schedule for drafting a new constitution and holding a free and fair UN-supervised election within 18 months.

But key details, such as Assad's role in the transition, remain unresolved.

"We still differ, obviously, on the issue of what happens with Bashar al-Assad," Kerry told reporters at the end of the talks.

"But we are relying on the political process itself led by Syrians -- which it will be -- going forward, and with Syrians negotiating with Syrians that that can help to bring a close to this terrible chapter."

The officials also failed to agree on which groups other than the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda affiliates would not be eligible for the truce.

Under the terms, the sponsoring countries of each group covered by the cease fire would be responsible for making sure that group upholds it.

Differences also remained on the causes of the terrorist threat emanating from Syria.

Kerry suggested radicals were drawn to the country in their fight against Assad, a view disputed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Kerry said the war "can't end as long as Bashar Assad is there. That's the perception of the people waging the war."

But Lavrov said the conflict — or its solution — is "not about Assad."

"It doesn't matter if you are for Assad or against him," he said. "ISIS is your enemy."

Top diplomats and officials from 20 countries and world bodies attended the meeting, which came a day after coordinated terrorist attacks -- claimed by the IS extremist group -- killed at least 129 people in Paris.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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