Syria talks in Vienna end with no solution, truce efforts to continue

Syria talks in Vienna end with no solution, truce efforts to continue

Syria talks in Vienna end with no solution, truce efforts to continue

AFP photo

International and regional actors, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, met in Vienna on Oct. 30 for high-level talks to reach a political solution to the civil war in Syria, though they have so far been unable to come to an agreement on any concrete steps.

However, parties to the Syrian conflict will work toward establishing a nationwıde ceasefıre, they said in a joint statement. 

“Substantial differences remain,” according to the statement, though they agreed it was “imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war.”  

The U.S. and Russia invited foreign ministers from 15 countries, including Turkey, Qatar and France, as well as senior representatives of the European Union and United Nations to the talks. Russia reportedly insisted on including Iran in the talks.

“The point that most of the countries… agreed on is that a peace in Syria is not possible with [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad. There is no argument on that. The countries who think differently on this topic are obvious,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu after the meetings. 

The foreign ministers of arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran sat at the same negotiation table for the first time since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed Iran’s participation and described the meeting as a ray of hope.

“If all parties show willingness during negotiations for the de-escalation of the crisis in Syria and make their contributions, then this can be a first step towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict,” Steinmeier said ahead of the talks.

“There are some points on which we disagree and particularly the future of Mr. Bashar al-Assad,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, while speaking after eight hours of negotiations. 

“So as far as we are concerned we think that he [al-Assad] has no place in the future of Syria. And other people, other countries think different, particularly Iran. But there are some points on which there have been improvements - concerning the role of the U.N., concerning elections, concerning a new government, concerning a new constitution,” he said.

He added the group would meet again in two weeks.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the sides had agreed with the U.N. to explore a nationwide ceasefire to run parallel to the renewed political process.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was no consensus on al-Assad’s role in Syria’s future, Interfax news agency reported. He also emphasized the need for direct dialogue between the warring parties.

The majority of the countries which participated in the talks, including Turkey, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, want to see the ousting of al-Assad, blaming him for the conflict which has so far caused the deaths of more than 250,000 victims as well as displacing more than half of Syria’s population.

Russia and Iran on the other hand want al-Assad, their key ally in the region, to be part of a resolution process.