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The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday endorsing a Syrian peace process that includes a cease-fire and peace talks, but does not address the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long suffering people of that battled land can support," Secretary of State John Kerry, who presided over the Security Council meeting, said.
The unanimous vote is the second strong showing of unity from the Security Council in as many days. On Thursday the group voted unanimously in favor of plans to squeeze ISIS' money-making schemes, including sales of illicit oil and antiquities, human trafficking and shakedowns.
The Syrian peace process resolution calls for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to convene representatives from the Syrian government and opposition forces to begin "formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis."
The resolution calls for the talks to begin in January, with a goal of establishing "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance" within six months and free and fair elections by mid-2017.
The hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Syria since the start of the civil war would be allowed to vote in elections, according to the resolution.
The plan calls for a cease-fire to begin "on an urgent basis" in order to facilitate peace talks and, ultimately, a political solution.
The cease-fire does not bar offensive or defensive attacks against groups in Syria that commit "terrorist acts," although outside of the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, the designation of such groups has not yet been defined.
The road map does not address what role Syrian President Bashar Assad would play — or not — in the talks or in a transitional government.
Speaking to Eurovision in Damsacus this week, Assad flouted outside discussion of his future. "This is a Syrian issue, whether it's Obama or the United States or Europe or any country, we don't care about it," Assad said. "To say that that he's leaving now or leaving in six months or six years, it's not their business, very simply."
Foreign ministers from 17 countries met on and off for more than five hours to overcome divisions on the text.
The resolution stresses the peace process will be "Syrian-led and Syrian-owned."
"The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria," the resolution states.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applauded the unanimous vote, but also highlighted the obstacles, which he said included the ongoing indiscriminate use of weapons on civilians and unsafe access for humanitarian aid and medical convoys.
"Tens of thousands of people in besieged areas have been forced to live on grass and weeds," Ban said. "This is outrageous."