Allies and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al - Assad have agreed to renew efforts to end the civil war.The Vienna talks involved Iran, a key Assad ally, for the first time. The ministers agreed to ask the United Nations to start a process that could lead to a ceasefire and new elections. But they disagreed over Assad ' s future. New talks are due in two weeks. Ahead of the talks, a Syrian government attack on a Damascus suburb left at least 57 people dead. The Vienna meeting sought to close the gap between the United States and its allies, who support the rebels, and the key foreign allies of the Syrian government, Russia and Iran. After nearly eight hours of talks, the ministers agreed on a number of points, including:
  • inviting the UN to convene Syria ' s government and opposition to launch a new political process that is " credible, inclusive, non - sectarian "
  • a new constitution and UN - backed elections that involve all Syrians, including members of the diaspora and of all ethnicities
  • improved access to humanitarian aid for Syrians in and outside the country
  • working with the UN to " explore modalities for, and implementation of, a nationwide ceasefire "
The four-year-old war in Syria, which began with an uprising against President Assad, has left 250,000 people dead and forced half the country's population - or 11 million people - from their homes.