World powers soften deadline for deal on Syria’s political ‘transition’

World powers soften deadline for deal on Syria’s political ‘transition’

VIENNA - Agence France-Presse
World powers soften deadline for deal on Syria’s political ‘transition’

AFP photo

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said May 17 that the August 1 date set for Syria’s warring parties to agree the framework of a political transition is a “target” not a deadline.

Under the terms of the peace plan agreed by the U.N. Security Council, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his opposition had until August to agree the outlines of a political process.

But, speaking after a meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), Kerry said: “The August date is not a drop date, it’s a target date, and we all recognize that if we make significant progress and we’re moving we will respect that process.” 

Any party to the Syrian war that is found to repeatedly break a shaky ceasefire agreement could risk foregoing the protection of the truce, the ISSG said. 

“Where the [ISSG] co-chairs believe that a party to the cessation of hostilities has engaged in a pattern of persistent non-compliance, the Task Force could refer such behavior to the ISSG Ministers or those designated by the Ministers to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements of the cessation and the protection it affords them,” the group said in a statement, according to Reuters. 

The ISSG, including the U.S., Russia, the United Nations, Turkey, and several Western and Arab nations, met in Vienna to discuss how a cessation of hostilities agreement reached in February could be revived. 

The group also called on the U.N. to carry out air drops over besieged areas in Syria as regime blockades in rebel-held areas were stopping all food and medical aid in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“Starting on June 1, if the U.N. is denied humanitarian access to any of these designated areas, the International Syria Support calls on the World Food Programme to immediately carry out a programme for air bridges and air drops to all of those areas in need,” Kerry said.