VIENNA — Major disagreement still exists between opposing camps present at today’s Syria talks in Vienna, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told Buzzfeed by phone after the meeting.
Asked about the atmosphere inside the meeting room, he said: “The disagreements are still very evident.” That, he added, was a “diplomatically correct” way of referring to them.
Bassil said the outcome constituted “a start for an all-inclusive process … a major achievement” considering the apparently enduring deep divisions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was more sanguine than his Lebanese counterpart when speaking about the meeting's outcomes afterwards, though still cautious about just what will come of the talks. "I will leave with a fresh sense of possibility," he said before speaking to reporters with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Special Representative for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
One of the few points of concord inside the room, according to Bassil? “Agreeing on fighting terror is very important and can be built on.” The goal, he added, is “allowing Syrians to decide their own fate.”
Russia has in recent days suggested that parliamentary and presidential elections need to be held in Syria. Iran reportedly proposed a six-month transition period before a new round of elections during the meeting. Detractors pointed out that Syria just had elections in April 2014, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won handily.
Lebanon was one of more than a dozen countries represented at Friday’s meeting which brought together for the second time in a week the US and Russian foreign ministers as well as, for the first time, the foreign minister of Iran – along with Russia, a strong backer of Assad. In addition to the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among the most vociferous foes of Assad.
All five members of the UN Security Council were represented, as well as the UN and EU. But no Syrian representatives were present. The participants reportedly will meet next week with Syrians present.
The joint statement released after the meeting tasked the UN with working with the Syrian government and opposition to launch a “political process leading to credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections."