The United Nations Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syria peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter million lives.
The resolution gives a U.N. blessing to a plan negotiated previously in Vienna that calls for a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to create a unity government and hold elections.
But the obstacles to ending the nearly five-year civil war remain daunting, with no side in the conflict able to secure a clear military victory. Despite their agreement, the major powers are bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition as well as on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-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 battered land can support," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the 15-nation council after the vote.
The resolution also calls for the U.N. to present the council with options for monitoring a ceasefire within one month.
Talks between Syria's government and opposition should begin in early January, the resolution said, though Kerry said mid-to-late January was more likely. It also endorsed the continued battle to defeat Islamic State militants who have seized large swaths of both Syria and neighboring Iraq.
It was one of the strongest appeals for peace by the council, divided for years on the issue of Syria's war, since Russia and China began vetoing a series of Western-drafted resolutions on the conflict in October 2011.