Vienna talks agree on Syria ceasefire, elections

• Syrian Govt and opposition representatives to start negotiations before year’s end 

• New elections to be held in Syria within 18 months

VIENNA: Parties to the Syria talks in Vienna have agreed on a UN-mediated ceasefire in Syria, negotiations between the government and the opposition to take place by the end of the year and elections to be held in 18 months after a six-month transition period, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry told reporters.

As the talks concluded, Kerry held a joint press conference in the Austrian capital with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

Seventeen countries, the UN, the EU and Arab League participated in the meeting in Vienna initiated by the U.S. and Russia with the aim of finding a political solution to the Syrian civil war, which rages on in its fifth year.

“We have agreed with Syrian regime and Syrian opposition representatives to kick off a meeting under the supervision of UN,” Kerry said, adding: “We support a transition period within 6 months led by Syrians.”

“We have also come to a mutual agreement to conduct a fair election in 18 months,” he said. “This political process should be followed by a ceasefire, which will help us to identify terrorists. ISIL and Al-Nusra are definitely considered as terrorists.”

Issuing a common statement following the meeting, the Vienna group — dubbed International Syria Support Group (ISSG) — “agreed to support and work to implement a nationwide ceasefire in Syria to come into effect as soon as the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition have begun initial steps towards the transition under UN auspices on the basis of the Geneva Communique.”

“The ceasefire would not apply to offensive or defensive actions against ISIL or Nusra or any other group the ISSG agrees to deem terrorist,” the statement said. 

The statement added that the participants expect to meet in a month in order to review progress towards implementation of a ceasefire and the beginning of the political process.

Speaking to the reporters after the meeting in Vienna, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the Syrian opposition agreed to immediately start the negotiations with the government of Bashar al-Assad.

In a tweet after the talks ended, the EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “Process has started, EU will do its part in support of UN to implement the decisions taken.” She added that the next meeting is going to be held in Paris.


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