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Vienna Meeting Agrees To Strengthen Syria Cessation of Hostilities into a Ceasefire

May 17, 2016 (EIRNS)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the co-chairmen of the International Syria Support Group, and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, came out of a meeting of the ISSG in Vienna today, saying there was an agreement to continue the political process in Syria as laid out in UN Security Council Resolution 2254. According to the State Department transcript of their joint press conference, Kerry said there were seven points to the agreement:

  1. the transformation of the cessation into a comprehensive ceasefire;

  2. a mechanism by which, if a party that claims to be part of the ceasefire but consistently violates it, its behavior can be referred to the ISSG foreign ministers for appropriate action;

  3. a commitment to intensify efforts to get the parties to stop all indiscriminate use of force;

  4. "we call on all parties to the cessation of hostilities to disassociate themselves physically and politically from Daesh and al-Nusrah and to endorse the intensified efforts by the United States and Russia to develop shared understandings of the threat posed and the delineation of the territory that is controlled by Daesh and al-Nusrah and to consider ways to deal decisively with terrorist groups;"

  5. the resumption of the delivery of humanitarian relief, or in some cases, the beginning of delivery;

  6. acilitating the release of detainees; and

  7. "we underscored the need for substantive discussions on the objective of meeting the target date established by the UN Secretary by the UN Council Resolution 2254 of August 1st to reach agreement on a framework for a genuine political transition to a transitional governing body."

Lavrov endorsed the seven points as reported by Kerry and added a few of his own. Number one, he said,

"it is very important that our joint position in the UN Security Council supposes an inclusive charter of the Syrian talks, and we don’t have to exclude any parties, including Kurdish parties."

Number two, he said, the Syrian government must comply, but also,

"the United States must work closely with the opposition, with regional actors, and to [stop] with the ongoing flows of militants from outside the Syrian border."

What is most relevant, Lavrov went on, is the problem of terrorism, particularly Jabhat al Nusra, which sometimes allies with and sometimes opposes groups that are part of the truce arrangement.

De Mistura, for his part, refused to say when the next round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva might begin. "The exact date, I’m not at the moment revealing it, because it will depend also on other facts," he said, though he stressed that "we cannot wait too long." He also emphasized that the Geneva process will be credible when the cessation of hostilities is credible.

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