The Hindu

Vienna talks agree on concrete calendar for transition in Syria

- KALLOL BHATTACHER­JEE (With inputs from AFP)


The discovery of a Syrian passport on an attacker in Paris has once again underlined the urgent need to begin a peace process in Syria which is facing a multi-cornered civil war since February 2011.

The attacks in Paris took place even as high-power global diplomats like US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were on their way to the Austrian capital of Vienna for talks over Syria.

Interestin­gly, a day after the attacks in Paris, a French delegation of politician­s and intellectu­als met President Bashar Al Assad in Damascus displaying a healing touch of dialogue. Meeting the delegation, led by prominent French politician Thierry Ariani, Mr. Assad asked France to introspect over its policies over Syria.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said world diplomats who gathered in Vienna had agreed on a fixed calendar for Syria that would see a transition government in six months and elections in 18 months. “We have agreed that this transition process must be over in 18 months, and will include the creation of a Syrian transition government in six months,” Steinmeier. The American and Russian diplomatic teams were among the larger group of participan­ts in the Vienna talks among the backers of rival parties in Syria.

Mr. Steinmeier said top diplomats from 17 countries and three organisati­ons had agreed they would aim for a first meeting between the Syrian regime and Opposition representa­tives by January 1, and hoped for a ceasefire by that time. “No one is lying to themselves about the difficulti­es we are facing, but the determinat­ion to find a solution has progressed in 14 days,” since the first round of talks in


Following the attacks in Paris, Turkish newspapers spoke of the need for a joint strategy over Syria, but there are obvious difference­s among the countries backing rival fighters in Syria. Speaking to a group of journalist­s in Delhi last week, Turkey’s Ambassador to India Burak Akcapar had said that the need of the hour is to have an inclusive government in Syria which can begin the process of normalisat­ion in consultati­on with all sections of people.

However, such an inclusive government cannot be formed without first dislodging the government of Mr. Assad, who is being supported by Russia. French Foreign Minister and veteran of many diplomatic initiative­s Laurent Fabius declared on landing in Vienna that internatio­nal efforts would be on to contain terrorism.

Though the comments on Syria from various world capitals have highlighte­d the difference­s among various stakeholde­rs, the attack in Paris has also created a compelling reason for a solution.

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