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Syria opposition reacts coolly to UN-backed peace plan

Beirut: A UN-backed roadmap to end the Syrian war was met with scepticism today by members of the country’s fractured opposition who insist President Bashar al-Assad must go to achieve peace.

The US and Russian initiative, unanimously approved by the UN Security Council on Friday, foresees talks between the rebels and the regime and a rapid ceasefire, perhaps even next month.

But the plan was described as unrealistic by the Istanbul-based National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition grouping.

The resolution “undermines the outcome of the meetings of revolutionary forces in Riyadh and waters down previous UN resolutions concerning a political solution in Syria,” coalition head Khaled Khoja said on Twitter.

Fellow coalition member Samir Nashar said bombing by the regime and Russia must stop for there to be a sustainable ceasefire, otherwise “the agreement is absolutely not applicate”.

The Security Council met after the latest round of talks by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which had gathered in New York to renew its push for peace.

“In January we hope and expect to be at the table and to be able to implement a full ceasefire,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“And that means all the barrel bombs will stop, all the bombing, all the shooting, all the attacks on either side.”

The United States and Arab allies remain convinced Assad must leave office as part of the process, but his allies Moscow and Tehran insist this is a decision for the Syrian people.

The resolution does not touch on this vital issue.

“We often hear the argument that without resolving the Assad question, it is impossible to truly coordinate in the fight against terrorism,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“This is a dangerous logic, a dangerous approach,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

Kerry, who has “agreed to disagree” with Moscow on Assad’s fate, emphasised that victory over the Islamic State group hinges on a peaceful settlement in the civil war.

“We know that Daesh can never be allowed to gain control in Syria so we have a global imperative here to deal with a terrorist entity but also to end the civil war,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

He said Assad had “lost the ability, the credibility” to unite and govern Syria.