International efforts to stop the carnage in Syria are intensifying.
Last week 19 nations, including the U.S., Russia, Iran and a number of Arab and European countries, as well as representatives from the European Union and the United Nations, convened in Vienna for bilateral and multilateral talks to explore the framework for a political solution to the violence that has been raging in Syria. The violence began when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned tanks and bullets on peaceful, pro-democracy protestors in March 2011. The conflict has since spiraled into civil war and given rise to the growth of terrorist groups like ISIL.
After the meetings, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized it will “take pressure from many different directions to reverse the escalation of conflict and to lay a credible groundwork for peace.”
He reiterated the U.S. position that ISIL and other terrorist organizations can never be allowed to unite or govern Syria, adding that there is no way Assad can unite and govern Syria either. “Syrians deserve a different choice,” said Mr. Kerry.
Secretary Kerry asserted, however, that the parties can’t allow their differences on Assad to get in the way of the possibility of diplomacy to end the killing and find a solution.
At the conclusion of the meetings, the participants issued a joint statement laying out agreed upon principles going forward, including a commitment to Syria’s unity, independence and territorial integrity; to the protection of the rights of all Syrians; to the defeat of ISIL and other terrorist groups; to the need to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war; and to a U.N.-led effort to convene meetings between the Syrian government and Syrian opposition with the goal of credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance in Syria, followed by a new constitution and elections. Another agreed upon principle was a commitment that the political process will by Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, and that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria.
The participants agreed to meet again within the next two weeks.
Secretary of State Kerry said the challenge for the international community is to help “chart a course out of hell.” It won’t happen overnight. But if the steps taken in Vienna are worked on in good faith, Mr. Kerry said, they “can begin to move us in the right direction.”