Vienna meeting on Syria concluded, agreement reached on steps to launch dialogue

The second international meeting held in Vienna to discuss how to push forward with the political settlement of the crisis in Syria concluded its activities on Saturday evening.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US State Secretary John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura held a joint press conference following the meeting, in which Lavrov announced that the participants in the meeting have agreed on the main steps to launch the dialogue before January 2016, stressing that the Syrians themselves are the ones who will determine the nature of their future state and will conduct the political process.

He pointed out that there was common consensus on the lists of the terrorist groups that must be combated, and that Jordan was approached to help devise a unified list of terrorist organization and present it to the Security Council for approval.

Lavrov also noted that the parties agreed to boost efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrians and solve the refugee issue, reiterating the importance of Russia’s initiative for forming a large-scale international alliance against terrorism.

For his part, de Mistura said that the Syrian government has informed him of its approval to form a delegation to participate in dialogue, and now it’s the opposition’s turn to do the same, adding that there needs to be a ceasefire along with the launch of the political process, and that this wouldn’t include terrorist organizations.

In turn, Kerry said that the events which took place in Paris on Friday show that ISIS is a threat to everyone in the Middle East and beyond, and that this extremist organization cannot be defeated without ending the crisis in Syria which requires a political process.

He said that the participants in the meeting didn’t come to dictate to Syrians what they should do to decide their destiny, rather the opposite as the Syrians will be the ones who will undertake these efforts.

Kerry stressed the need for assistance from the international community in this regard, particularly on reaching a consensus on a political transitional process.

The second Vienna meeting on Syria was held earlier on Saturday with the participation of 19 states and international organizations. Besides Lavrov and Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif participated in the meeting, in addition to foreign ministers and deputies from the region and the world and representatives of the United Nations and European Union.

Two weeks ago, Vienna witnessed a similar meeting that came up with nine points that stress Syria’s unity, independence, and its secular identity, as well as the need for preserving its institutions and the rights of all the Syrians.

On a side note, de Misura, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, and Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian held a tripartite meeting in Vienna in which they discussed the latest developments regarding Syria, with Abdullahian saying that double standards and dividing terrorism into “good and bad” leads to bitter repercussions in the region and the world, in reference to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut.

In the same context, Abdullahian said in a statement after the Vienna meeting that the participants focused on the need to step up counter-terrorism operations, and that the emphasis of the timetable regarding resolving the crisis in Syria focuses on ceasefire, asserting that the Syrian people must have the final say on any procedure related to their country.

Likewise, Lebanese Foreign and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil said in a speech at the Vienna meeting that resolving the crisis in Syria is a pressing necessity if ISIS and international terrorism are to be dealt real blows, stressing that the recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon in France are no coincidence and relay a message from terrorists that they can attack wherever they want and that they are not afraid of anyone.

He posed the question of whether this threatening message can be confronted by maintaining the status quo and arguing over details while danger looms over everyone’s head, asserting that clear steps that go beyond words are needed to show determination to fight terrorism.