Amid Paris Chaos, Vienna Diplomats Agree Timetable to End Syrian Civil War

Against the backdrop of chaos and tragedy in Paris, the world's leading diplomats met in Vienna on Saturday for the second round of peace talks aimed at bringing an end to the civil war in Syria.

The upshot was the agreement of a timetable for formal negotiations to begin between the government of Bashar al-Assad and its opposition by January 1 next year, with the view to holding elections within 18 months, The Wall Street Journal reports.

More than a dozen nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, supported the plans unveiled by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in a joint press conference.

Many present at the summit noted the speed and unity of progress between nations in reaching an unprecedented level of cooperation, an achievement that has previously eluded the international community.

In reaching agreement, the meeting shifted focus away from the eventual fate of Assad, which has been a constant hurdle between the U.S. and Russia, according to Reuters.

Speaking after the talks, Kerry said: "We still differ, obviously, on the issue of what happens with Bashar al-Assad, but we are relying on the political process itself, led by Syrians, which it will be going forward, and the Syrians negotiating with Syrians; that that can help bring a close to this terrible chapter."

Lavrov echoed the Secretary of State's focus on the role of the Syrian people. "We have reiterated that the Syrian future will be decided by the Syrian people alone," Lavrov said. "The Paris attacks have shown, alongside with ISIS claiming responsibility for it, that it doesn't matter if you are for Assad or against him; ISIS is your enemy."

Amid Paris Chaos, Vienna Diplomats Agree Timetable to End Syrian Civil War | Politics