Calls for Truce in Syria After Talks

Calls for Truce  in Syria After Talks Calls for Truce  in Syria After Talks

Talks on Syria’s civil war have ended in Vienna with diplomats calling for a nationwide truce and the renewal of a UN-led peace process, while the US announced plans to deploy special operations forces in Syria.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said diplomats at the Friday talks had agreed to work towards establishing a transitional government in Syria, holding new elections and implementing national or regional ceasefires.

But despite finding some common ground, the main bone of contention between participants remained the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Deutsche Welle reported.

“There was still no breakthrough, but that also wasn’t expected today,” Steinmeier told reporters in the Austrian capital, adding that the discussions to try and find a way out of the Syrian civil war would resume in two weeks.

Friday’s multilateral talks involved the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and more than a dozen other countries, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the European Union.

It was the first time Iran had attended, but the Syrian government and opposition were not invited to the table.

 “Agree to Disagree”

In a joint statement, the participants said they were asking the UN to bring together representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition to launch a political process leading to credible, inclusive, governance, followed by a new constitution and elections.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said after the talks that all countries, including regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, had pledged to support an independent Syria, to maintain the country’s institutions, and to strive to defeat IS.

Kerry added that he had “agreed to disagree” with his Iranian and Russian counterparts on the question of what should happen to Syrian leader Assad.

Russia and Iran believe “the Syrian people should decide Assad’s fate”. The US, its Persian Gulf Arab allies and Turkey say he must step down.

 US Ramps Up Campaign

The new diplomatic push in Vienna came as the US announced plans to deploy US special operations forces in Syria to help local troops in the fight against IS militants.

Officials said an initial deployment of “fewer than 50” special forces would be sent to the north of the country—the first time American troops would be deployed openly on the ground in Syria.

The decision marks an escalation in Washington’s efforts to defeat IS, which controls large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. The US has been carrying out airstrikes in both countries as part of an international coalition, but has been reluctant to send in ground forces.

The US recently abandoned its Syria rebel training effort, opting to provide equipment and arms directly to rebel leaders instead.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama wanted to provide additional support for Syrian rebel fighters who had been having success on the battlefield.

Kerry said the timing of the announcement, as talks in Vienna were underway, was just a “coincidence.”

 Russian Reaction    

Russia has warned of the risk of a “proxy war” in the Middle East after the US said it would send special forces to Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this increased the need for cooperation between the US and Russia, BBC reported.

He said the US had decided on its move “unilaterally and without any reference to the Syrian leadership”.

“I am convinced that neither the United States nor Russia of course want any kind of slide into a so-called proxy war. But to me it is obvious that this situation makes the task of cooperation between the militaries even more relevant,” said Lavrov speaking after talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in Vienna.