Key countries meet in latest push to launch Syrian peace talks

Some 20 foreign ministers on Friday were tackling the most difficult issues for a possible end to Syria's civil war, including sorting out which Syrian groups will represent the opposition in peace talks in the new year and which will be considered terrorist organizations instead.

See Full Article

Diplomats remained divided over a resolution that the UN Security Council was expected to adopt just after the talks endorsing the process. Syria's main opposition group said a Jan. 1 deadline for starting peace talks was "too ambitious."

And the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a political transition remains the most challenging issue of all.

Two hours into Friday's meeting, diplomats said discussions were focused on which groups in Syria should be considered terrorist organizations. Thursday evening, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told The Associated Press there "seems to be no agreement" on that and on who should represent the opposition.

During a break in the talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry breezed by reporters and said negotiations were "going well."

On his way into the meeting at a New York hotel, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two most important issues are launching political negotiations and implementing a UN-monitored ceasefire. "Without peace talks, the cease-fire cannot be sustained. Without a cease-fire, peace talks cannot continue to produce results," he said.

"We must realize the political process is going to go backward if we are not making progress," Wang said. He noted the "severe threat posed by international terrorism," a reference to the Islamic State group, which has exploited the chaos to seize large parts of Syria.

Serious differences remain between Russia and Iran, which support the government of Assad, and backers of the Syrian opposition, including the United States, key European nations, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Russia and the West continue to be split on the issue the fate of Assad.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said negotiations were still taking place on the Security Council resolution. UN diplomats said a key stumbling block was how to address the issue of the transitional government.

"We continue to look at this optimistically and are putting a lot of effort into getting an agreement," Rycroft said.

Rycroft said the Security Council resolution would not break new ground but would enshrine agreements from talks in Vienna and Geneva.

The resolution would be a rare gesture of unity in a Security Council that has been bitterly divided on Syria. But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday, "I'm not sure it's going to happen."

A peace plan agreed to last month by 20 nations meeting in Vienna sets a Jan. 1 deadline for the start of negotiations between Assad's government and opposition groups. The plan says nothing about Assad's future but says that "free and fair elections would be held pursuant to the new constitution within 18 months."

The Jan. 1 deadline is "too ambitious a timetable," the UN representative for the Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, told reporters Friday morning. Najib Ghadbian estimated that a month of preparation is needed.

Ghadbian also said a comprehensive solution to the conflict requires "the removal of all foreign troops from Syria, all of them," including Russia, which began airstrikes there in September. The strikes are focused on more moderate forces fighting Assad in areas where the Islamic State group has little or no presence.

"For us, the utmost priority is to stop the killing. Then we can make headway with a ceasefire and political transition," Ghadbian said.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Academic says he's being scapegoated in Facebook data case

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- An academic who developed an app used by Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from millions of Facebook users said Wednesday he had no idea his material would be used in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and that he's being scapegoated in the affair. Source
  • Aging Vancouver home listed for $6.98M

    Canada News CTV News
    Sure it’s nearly 100 years old, rundown, with fencing covered in mildew and moss. But it’s the location, location, location that could make a family home up for sale in downtown Vancouver worth its nearly $7-million price tag. Source
  • Service Canada moves away from calling Canadians Mr., Mrs., or Miss

    Canada News CBC News
    Service Canada employees who interact with the public are being asked to stay away from terms like Mr., Mrs., father and mother, and to use gender-neutral terms in their place, CBC News has learned. According to documents obtained by Radio Canada, the French-language arm of CBC, front-line staff must now "use gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language. Source
  • Aides told Trump not to congratulate Putin on win: report

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his re-election, drawing bruising criticism from members of his own party, including a leading senator who scorned the election as a "sham. Source
  • Focus turns to missing in Bruce McArthur case

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Judi Riley's 47-year-old brother vanished while on a trip to Toronto nearly five years ago. Her family filed a police report and repeatedly prodded authorities for updates. But there were no leads, until now. Source
  • Israel's warning to enemies confirms destruction of 2007 Syria nuclear reactor

    World News CBC News
    The Israeli military confirmed Wednesday it carried out the 2007 airstrike in Syria that destroyed what was believed to be a nuclear reactor, lifting the veil of secrecy over one of its most daring and mysterious operations in recent memory. Source
  • 'We're not over land': WestJet passengers recount emergency landing in smoke-filled cabin

    Canada News CTV News
    A WestJet flight from Vancouver to Nanaimo, B.C. was evacuated on the tarmac after smoke filled the cabin moments before landing. Flight 3161 declared an emergency as it descended towards Nanaimo Airport on Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Trump legal woes grow on separate fronts involving women accusers

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump faced legal challenges from women on two fronts on Tuesday as a defamation lawsuit brought by a former Apprentice TV show contestant moved forward and a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump sued to undo a confidentiality agreement. Source
  • First lady vows to fight cyberbullying despite skeptics

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Pushing back against her critics, Melania Trump said Tuesday she's committed to fighting cyberbullying despite the knocks she's gotten for taking on the issue when her husband regularly uses Twitter to berate his foes and call them names. Source
  • Dozens of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram are released

    World News CBC News
    Boko Haram extremists returned most of the 110 girls abducted from their Nigeria boarding school a month ago with an ominous warning, witnesses said Wednesday. The fighters rolled into Dapchi around 2 a.m. in nine vehicles and the girls were left in the centre of town. Source