UN endorses resolution outlining peace process for Syria
UN Security Council members have approved a resolution outlining a peace process for Syria involving talks by representatives of the Damascus government and the opposition.
However, it makes no mention of the critical issue of what role President Bashar Assad will play.
The resolution acknowledges that the peace process will not end the conflict because it bars "terrorist groups" operating in the country, including Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, from participating in a ceasefire.
Foreign ministers from 17 countries met on and off for more than five hours to overcome divisions on the text.
The resolution has been described as a rare gesture of unity on the Syria peace process by a council often deeply divided on the crisis.
The resolution requests that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon convene representatives of the Syrian government and opposition "to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis, with a target of early January 2016 for the initiation of talks".
Within six months, the process should establish "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance", with UN-supervised "free and fair elections" to be held within 18 months.
It calls the transition Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, stressing that the "Syrian people will decide the future of Syria".
The resolution also says ceasefire efforts should move forward in parallel with the talks, and it asks Mr Ban to report within a month of the resolution's adoption on a way to monitor the ceasefire.
It notes that the ceasefire "will not apply to offensive or defensive actions" against groups considered terrorist organisations, meaning that air strikes by Russia, France and the US-led coalition apparently would not be affected.