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Hopes for United Nations vote on ending Syrian civil war

Lavrov, at a joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry and UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura, described UN Security Council resolution No. 2254 on Syria as “excellent and good”.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council were struggling to agree on a draft resolution endorsing an global bid to end the five-year-old civil war in Syria, as ministerial talks began in NY.

In its first resolution to focus on the politics of ending the brutal war, the 15-nation Council, meeting at the Foreign Minister level here yesterday, asked UN chief Ban Ki- moon to convene government and opposition representatives in formal talks next month on a political transition as a step to lasting peace, in line with the 2012 Geneva Communique.

Eighteen pro-government fighters and several rebels were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.

Speaking to MPs earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond held out the possibility that the meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) could produce a text for the council which will not be vetoed by Russian Federation.

“We are under no illusions about obstacles that exist”, Kerry said.

Although this is a positive development for Syria, US hardliners and their Middle Eastern allies, who tried to push through a “regime change” scenario in Syria, are not happy about it.

It includes talks between the government and rebels, but doesn’t mention what role, if any, President Assad will play.

But Washington and Moscow remain split over the fate of Assad and which groups fighting in Syria should be designated “terrorists” and therefore excluded from negotiations.

Any halt to hostilities would not apply to air strikes against so-called Islamic State and other terrorist groups, it makes clear, amid fears they could otherwise benefit.

“It will be up to Syrians to decide”, said Amir Abdollahian. “What Iran is concerned about is what the people of Syria want”, he said.

The peace plan agreed to in Vienna last month by 17 nations as well as the U.N., European Union, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation sets a January 1 deadline for the start of negotiations between Assad’s government and opposition groups. Hijab served as prime minister and agriculture minister under Assad before defecting in 2012, the highest-profile Syrian official to do so in more than four years of the conflict.

“Despite the important step that we have taken with today’s resolution, despite the progress we have made in Vienna, despite the important steps forward taken at the meeting in Riyadh, there is still a very long way to go”.

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