Leaders press for end to conflict
World and regional powers have agreed to try and turn Syria’s shaky pause in fighting into a comprehensive ceasefire as a step toward ending the five-year war that left hundreds of thousands dead and fuelled the rise of Islamic extremists.
Outlining other results, US Secretary of State John Kerry said participants set a June 1 deadline for the resumption of humanitarian aid to areas cut off from the outside world.
If land routes remain blocked, food aid will be air dropped and international pressure will be increased on those blocking such relief, he said. Such pressure will also be applied to stop indiscriminate use of force by the Syrian military, Kerry added, without specifying what pressure the powers could apply.
But beyond such pledges the meeting did not devise any concrete ways to resolve the main problem standing in the way of peace - factional divisions. Without that, progress in ending the violence and reducing Syria’s human misery can only be marginal and temporary.
Kerry said as much to reporters, declaring that to end the conflict “a variety of competing interests are going to have to be reconciled.” “Those involved in this conflict with competing agendas are going to have to prioritise peace,” he said.
One key division continues to be the fate of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Going into the talks, German Foreign Minister FrankWalter Steinmeier repeated the position held by the West and the Saudi-backed opposition that a peace agreement should outline steps leading to the end of his rule.
"This is necessary because there can be no lasting future for this country with Assad," he said. “This is why we must start negotiations here in Vienna ... about what a transition government could look like."
Kerry said that “without a negotiated solution, Assad and his supporters will never end the war.”
And he questioned suggestions that Assad was immune from international pressure.