The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday backing a peace process to end the nearly five-year war in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the resolution sends "a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria."
The fate of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, though, is not part of the equation in the resolution. What happens to Assad is perhaps the most divisive part of the peace effort.
The resolution backed by the 15-member council calls for formal peace talks and a cease-fire to begin in early January 2016.
The United States, Russia and the other three permanent Security Council members — France, Britain and China — were seeking U.N. endorsement of the diplomatic initiative to underscore international agreement on a cohesive way forward in Syria.
The resolution states: The "only sustainable solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."
It is built mostly on statements agreed upon during prior discussions in Geneva and Vienna, urging "inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers" in Syria.
The resolution requests that the U.N. bring together the Syrian government and the oppositionfor formal negotiations on a political transition "with a target of early January 2016."
"There obviously remains sharp differences," Kerry said, alluding to the fate of Assad. "For this to work, the process has to be led and shaped and decided by the men and women of Syria."
He added, "If the war is to end, it is imperative that the Syrian people agree on an alternative in terms of their government."
Jessica Ashooh, a Middle East expert from the Atlantic Council, told VOA the key things to look for in the resolution are the language used to address terrorist groups and to see if the 2012 Geneva Communique is upheld.
The Geneva Communique was considered to be the road map for the Syrian political process, in which a transitional governing body would be formed, based on mutual consent by the Syrians.
“The Syrian opposition will be getting very nervous if there’s any indications in resolution or discussions on Friday that either the U.S. or Russia are considering leaving the consensus of the Geneva Communique in favor of new language on the Syria process,” said Ashooh.
Also among the ISSG goals is a plan to draft a terrorist list, which would identify groups that would be barred from the proposed cease-fire, as well as a Syrian opposition group list that would identify participants in the political dialogue with the Syrian regime.
“So all this information will be generalized, will be analyzed by the U.N.,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow earlier this week.
Kerry chaired the U.N. Security Council meeting. Earlier in Moscow, he indicated the gap between the U.S. and Russia was narrowed, saying “we did reach some common ground today and agreement with respect to the complexity of this issue of terrorist groups.”
"The talks on Friday and the resolution that may or may not come out of the talks on Friday really will set the stage for whether or not the Syrian conflict is resolved in a quick manner or whether it remains drawn out," said Ashooh of the Atlantic Council.