'Rare moment of diplomatic opportunity to end conflict in Syria,' says Ban as talks in Vienna reconvened

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura brief journalists following a closed-door Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria. UN Photo/Mark Garten

14 November 2015 – While members of an international support group for Syria engaged in “constructive dialogue” in Vienna on how to end the five-year conflict, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he is encouraged by the stakeholders reconvening to address the “grave situation” and bring about a political settlement to end the violence as soon as possible.

“In follow-up to the last meeting, the Secretary-General has instructed the United Nations Secretariat to accelerate planning on modalities for supporting the implementation of a political process and of a nationwide ceasefire for further exploration with the relevant parties,” indicated a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the UN spokesperson issued a separate statement by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) noting that members welcomed Mr. Ban's instructions on the ceasefire, and expressed a unanimous sense of urgency to end the suffering of the Syrian people, the physical destruction of Syria, the destabilization of the region, and the resulting increase in terrorists drawn to the fighting in Syria.

The group includes the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries.

“The ISSG acknowledged the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process pursuant to the 2012 Geneva Communiqué , and that both initiatives should move ahead expeditiously,” the statement noted, highlighting that the members also stated their commitment to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition.

The group 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 Communiqué.

Meanwhile, the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council pledged to support a resolution to empower a UN-endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists.

“All members of the ISSG also pledged as individual countries and supporters of various belligerents to take all possible steps to require adherence to the ceasefire by these groups or individuals they support, supply or influence,” the statement underlined, adding that the ceasefire would not apply to offensive or defensive actions against Da'esh or Nusra or any other group the ISSG agrees to deem terrorist.

In addition, the ISSG expressed concern for the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons and the imperative of building conditions for their safe return in accordance with the norms of international humanitarian law and taking into account the interests of host countries.

They also reiterated their agreement on the need to convene Syrian government and opposition representatives in formal negotiations under UN auspices, as soon as possible, with a target date of 1 January.

“The group welcomed efforts, working with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and others, to bring together the broadest possible spectrum of the opposition, chosen by Syrians, who will decide their negotiating representatives and define their negotiating positions, so as to enable the political process to begin,” the statement explained.

Furthermore, ISSG members affirmed their support for a Syrian-led process that will, within a target of six months, establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance,” and set a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution.

“Free and fair elections would be held pursuant to the new constitution within 18 months,” the statement noted. “These elections must be administered under UN supervision to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.”

Regarding the fight against terrorism, the ISSG reiterated that Da'esh, Nusra, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council, must be defeated.

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

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