Major powers progress on Syria

  • 31/10/2015
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (AAP)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (AAP)

Major powers meeting in Vienna have narrowed their differences over the Syrian war but remain divided over the key issue of the future of President Bashar al-Assad, France's foreign minister says.

Another round of talks will be held in two weeks' time, Laurent Fabius told reporters in Vienna on Friday (local time).

"We discussed all issues, even the most difficult," he told reporters after talks that for the first time brought together all the main foreign actors in the conflict.

"There are points of disagreement, but we advanced enough for us to meet again, in the same configuration, in two weeks."

"The main disagreement is the future role of Mr Bashar al-Assad," Fabius said after top diplomats from 17 countries, as well as the United Nations and the European Union, wrapped up their talks.

"But there are a number of points on which we agreed, notably on the transition process, the prospect of elections and how all this should be organised and the role of the United Nations."

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the meeting was "not an easy one but a historic one" and stressed that future negotiations would happen "under the auspices of the UN".

"Some major issues remain but we have found some common ground," she added.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the participants had discovered "that we agree on quite a lot" but differences remain, "notably over the future of Bashar al-Assad".

"We have agreed that we will try to narrow those differences," he added.

The West and Gulf monarchies led by Saudi Arabia want Assad to step down, but Russia and Iran insist he has a right to play a role in an eventual transition towards a mooted unity government and later elections.