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Syria opposition skeptical over UN-backed peace plan

THE LEVANT NEWS — A U.N.-backed roadmap to end the Syrian war was met with skepticism Saturday by members of the country’s fractured opposition who insist President Bashar Assad must go to achieve peace.

The U.S. and Russian initiative, unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council on Friday, foresees talks between the rebels and the government and a rapid ceasefire, perhaps even next month.

But the plan was described as unrealistic by the Istanbul-based National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition grouping.

The resolution “undermines the outcome of the meetings of revolutionary forces in Riyadh and waters down previous U.N. resolutions concerning a political solution in Syria,” coalition head Khaled Khoja said on Twitter.

Fellow coalition member Samir Nashar said bombing by the Syrian government and Russia must stop for there to be a sustainable ceasefire.

“Given the reality on the ground and the impasse on the fate of Bashar Assad, the agreement is absolutely not applicable,” he said.

The Security Council met after the latest round of talks by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which had gathered in New York to renew its push for peace.

“In January we hope and expect to be at the table and to be able to implement a full ceasefire,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters.

“And that means all the barrel bombs will stop, all the bombing, all the shooting, all the attacks on either side.”

The United States and Arab allies remain convinced Assad must leave office as part of the process, but his allies Moscow and Tehran insist this is a decision for the Syrian people.

The resolution does not touch on this vital issue.

“We often hear the argument that without resolving the Assad question, it is impossible to truly coordinate in the fight against terrorism,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“This is a dangerous logic, a dangerous approach,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

Kerry — who has “agreed to disagree” with Moscow on Assad’s fate — emphasized that victory over ISIS hinges on a peaceful settlement in the broader Syrian civil war.

“We know that Daesh can never be allowed to gain control in Syria so we have a global imperative here to deal with a terrorist entity but also to end the civil war,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

“President Assad in our judgement… has lost the ability, the credibility to be able to unite the country and to provide the moral credibility to be able to govern it.”

But experts nevertheless see a narrowing of differences between the major powers.

“The West and Russia’s position are coming closer together,” Alexander Baunov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told AFP.

“Russia would not have voted for a resolution in which it would have been written that Assad needs to step down. The absence of Assad is a form of compromise to get the resolution through.”

Source: Agence France Presse

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