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UN endorses peace process for Syria, but no mention of Assad

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United Nations: UN Security Council members approved a resolution outlining 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.

The resolution acknowledges that the peace process will not end the conflict because it bars “terrorist groups” operating in the country, including the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, from participating in a cease-fire.

Foreign ministers from 17 countries met on and off for more than five hours to overcome divisions on the text.

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 draft resolution approved yesterday, obtained by The Associated Press, requests that UN Secretary-General Ban 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 UN-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 organisations, meaning that airstrikes by Russia, France and the US-led coalition apparently would not be affected.

Meanwhile yesterday, 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 organisations. 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.