US Secretary of State John Kerry signalled a new UN resolution on Syria and a possible ceasefire agreement, after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.
“We will meet this Friday, Dec. 18, in New York with the International Syrian Support Group and then ... we will pass a UN resolution regarding ... the next steps with respect to negotiations and hopefully a ceasefire," Kerry said.
The two sides reached a “common ground” for a third round of talks on the future of war-torn Syria after two earlier meetings in Vienna made limited progress.
“Despite our countries' differences, we have demonstrated that when the United States and Russia pull together in the same direction, progress can be made,” Lavrov said.
The agreement between the two powers centred on which groups would not be allowed in the peace negotiations.
“We certainly narrowed down our own thinking about the complexity of how one can manage that, we obviously agree that ISIL (DAESH) and al Nusra are absolutely outside of this process no matter what,” Kerry said.
The US has been hitting DAESH targets in Syria since September 2014 and Russia also started its own air campaign in Syria in September of this year, initially claiming to fight DAESH.
However, most of the Russian air strikes were carried out against Syrian opposition groups fighting both the Assad regime and DAESH.
Despite the talks which Kerry said were “substantive,” differences between the US and Russia about the future of Bashar al Assad persisted in the talks.
“No one should be forced to choose between a dictator and being plagued by terrorists,” Kerry said.
Russia, Assad’s strongest ally together with Iran, has been saying that Assad should not be forced out of power and the Syrian people should be left to decide on his future.
“The United States and its partners are not seeking so-called regime change as it is known in Syria,” Kerry said in Kremlin, but reiterated the US' position, Assad cannot remain the leader of Syria in the future.
About a 100 Syrian opposition groups, except for Nusra Front, DAESH and PYD, came together in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh and published a joint statement saying they are ready for talks with the representatives of the Syrian regime aimed at a transition process, with the condition that Assad steps down.
"The aim of the political settlement is to create a state based on the principle of citizenship without Bashar al Assad or figures of his regime having a place in it or any future political arrangements," a joint statement released by the groups said.
Speaking in an interview with Spanish media, Assad has refused to negotiate with armed opposition groups, putting proposed talks to end the Syrian war in doubt.
The Syrian civil war has so far claimed the lives of over 250,000 people according to UN estimates, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the true death toll exceeds 350,000, most of which are killed by the regime.