Efforts to pass a UN Security Council resolution on the situation in Syria seemed to stall Friday as ministers met in New York for a new round of talks to end the conflict.
Foreign ministers from 17 countries gathered to follow up on two previous international summits in Vienna, the outcome of which in November was a roadmap to reach a political transition.
A resolution by the Security Council, the first ever focusing on the political track, would rubber-stamp the Vienna process and add further momentum to end the conflict, currently in its fifth year.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the summit began with difficult discussions, but the aim of passing a council resolution remained.
"It is still unclear whether it will succeed," Steinmeier said just hours before the council was set to meet.
"But we are working on it with great commitment."
Under the Vienna roadmap, representatives from the Syrian government and the opposition need to initiate a process by the end of the year, which would include the establishment of a transitional government within six months and new elections within 18 months.
World powers are also aiming for the establishment of a nationwide ceasefire, maybe as soon as January.
However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned that the push to change the government in Syria will prolong the conflict.
"They want the solution, what they call a political solution, to be ended with the changing of this state, getting rid of this president or depose him, and so on. So, that's why it will drag on," al-Assad said in an interview Friday with Dutch television.
Al-Assad's fate is still a major sticking point.
Russia and Iran, al-Assad's main allies, refuse an agreement that would force him to step down, while the United States and other countries backing the rebels want him out of power.
Another issue remains agreeing on which opposition groups could take part in the political transition and which ones would be classified as terrorist groups and barred.
The Syrian opposition announced Friday the formation of a delegation to hold UN-sponsored negotiations with al-Assad's government, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Riad Hijab, coordinator of the opposition negotiation team, said the opposition is willing to cooperate with the international community to complete the transition, but with no role for al-Assad.
Opposition sources said the negotiating delegation will comprise of 15 members.
Hijab, an ex-Syrian prime minister, defected to the opposition in 2012.
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