Security Council Gives UN Major Role in Syria

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In its first resolution to focus on the politics of ending Syria’s five-year-long war, the Security Council gave the United Nations an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, with a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices.

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The Council asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene Government and opposition representatives in formal negotiations early next month on a political transition as a step to lasting peace, in line with the 2012 Geneva Communique and consistent with the 14 November 2015 International Syria Support Group (ISSG) on the issue.

The resolution was adopted unanimously after Mr. Ban briefed the 15-member body on his meeting earlier in the day with the International Syria Support Group, comprised of the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries, including the United States and Russia, which has been seeking a path forward for several months.

The Council called for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the UN to establish within six months “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance,” setting a schedule for drafting a new constitution, with free and fair elections to be held within 18 months under UN supervision with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to vote.

It acknowledged the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, with the former to come into effect as soon as the sides have begun initial steps towards a political transition under UN auspices.

The resolution asked Mr. Ban through the offices of his Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to determine the modalities of a ceasefire and plan to support its implementation, while urging Member States, in particular members of the ISSG, to accelerate all efforts to achieve a ceasefire, including through pressing all relevant parties to adhere to one.

It reiterated previous calls for Member States to suppress terrorist acts by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Nusra Front and all others with Al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorist groups.

The resolution also called on the parties to immediately allow rapid and safe access throughout Syria for immediate humanitarian aid to reach all people in need, and to release arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children.

Finally, it demanded that all parties immediately cease attacks against civilians, including medical facilities and personnel and the indiscriminate use of weapons, including shelling and aerial bombardment, and stressed the “critical need to build conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their home areas.”

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