VIENNA (AP) — Invoking the need for joint action after the terrorist attacks on Paris, foreign ministers of nearly 20 nations agreed Saturday to an ambitious yet incomplete plan for bringing peace to Syria and ending its role as a breeding ground for ISIS and other radical Islamic groups.
Countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, which support different sides in the conflict, put aside their dispute to condemn the bombings and shootings that left at least 123 people in the French capital dead Friday. So did Moscow and Washington.
Standing next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of Saturday's full ministerial meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the attacks "the most vile, horrendous, outrageous, unacceptable acts on the planet". He said they "encouraged us today to do even harder work to make progress and to help resolve the crises that we face."
"The events in Paris underscore the threat that Daesh poses to all of us," he later told reporters, referring by an alternate name to ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the Paris terror spree. Kerry spoke in French for part of his post-meeting remarks, in a bow to the victims of those attacks.
The plan presented by the two appeared to draw heavily on a recently circulated Russian initiative. With just two weeks elapsed since the Syria talks first convened, it could mark a significant advance, if successful.
It sets a Jan. 1 deadline for the start of negotiations between President Bashar Assad's government and opposition groups. Lavrov said the Syrian government already had put forward its representatives, with the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to begin immediate work on determining who should sit at the table as part of the opposition team.
Within six months, the negotiations between the Syrian sides are to establish "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian" transitional government that would set a schedule for drafting a new constitution and holding a free and fair U.N.-supervised election within 18 months, according to a joint statement released by the United Nations on behalf of the 19 parties to the talks.
But holes remained.
While the diplomats agreed on a U.N.-administered cease fire enforcement mechanism they failed to reach consensus on which groups other than the Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliates would not be eligible for the truce. Under the terms, the sponsoring countries of each group covered by the cease fire would be responsible for making sure that group upholds it.