UN unanimously backs Syria peace process

UNITED STATES - The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a peace process to put an end to the nearly five-year war in Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the resolution sends "a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria."

The resolution, however, does not touch on one of the most contentious issues in the peace effort: the fate of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

The resolution backed by the 15-member council calls for formal peace talks and a ceasefire to be launched in early January.

The United States, Russia and the other three permanent Security Council members - France, Britain and China - had sought UN endorsement of the diplomatic effort to highlight international unity on the way forward in Syria.

The resolution states that the "only sustainable solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

The measure draws heavily on statements agreed during previous talks in Geneva and Vienna by calling for an "inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers" in Syria.

It asks the United Nations to bring the Syrian government and the opposition to the table for formal negotiations on a political transition "with a target of early January 2016."

"There obviously remains sharp differences," Kerry said, alluding to the fate of Assad.

"For this to work, the process has to be led and shaped and decided by the men and women of Syria." But he added: "If the war is to end, it is imperative that the Syrian people agree on an alternative in terms of their government."