Syria peace talks under way in Vienna
October 30 2015 01:11 PM
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US Secretary of State John Kerry talks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Vienna on Friday.

AFP/Vienna

Talks on a political solution to the civil war in Syria got under way on Friday, with 17 countries plus the UN and European Union taking part.

Syria itself was not represented, but senior envoys from Turkey, Italy, Britain, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Germany, Qatar, France, the UAE, Oman, the US and China were present in Vienna.

US Secretary of State John Kerry sat at the head of the table for the meeting, the first that brought together all the main outside players in the four-year-old Syrian crisis, including bitter foes Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was sat almost as far from his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif as was possible at the tight U-shaped table in the conference room of Vienna's grand Imperial Hotel.

Most of the countries were represented by their foreign ministers but China sent vice foreign minister Li Baodong. The UN was represented by its special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

At least 40 killed in missile attack on Syrian town  

At least 40 people were killed and about 100 wounded after Syrian government forces fired missiles into a market place in a town near Damascus, a conflict monitor and a local rescue group said on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces fired 12 missiles at Douma, 15 km northeast of Damascus. Douma has suffered intense bombardment in recent months in a wave of strikes the Syrian army has said targets insurgent groups that launched attacks on nearby government-held areas.

The Syrian Civil Defence group posted a picture on its Facebook page of about a dozen bloodied bodies laid on the ground on plastic sheeting and said more than 45 had died in the attack, which it said used guided missiles.

Many of Douma's residents have fled the four-year-old conflict, moving to nearby rural areas. Medics say they have struggled to cope with large numbers of wounded in the intensified strikes.  

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