After years of ruinous civil war, the United Nations Security Council has finally approved a peace deal for what's left of Syria—but it leaves the future of President Bashar Assad a mystery. The resolution adopted by a unanimous vote on Friday says Syria must hold elections within 18 months of the beginning of peace talks, though it doesn't say whether Assad will be eligible to run, reports the New York Times. US Secretary of State John Kerry said there are obviously "sharp differences within the international community, especially about the future of President Assad," and it is now clear that failure to allow any compromise on the issue was, "in fact, prolonging the war," the AP reports.
Despite the obstacles, the resolution shows a degree of unity that has been lacking until now, Reuters reports. "This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long-suffering people of that battered land can support," Kerry said. The resolution calls for representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition—not including ISIS and other groups deemed "terrorist"—to begin talks in early January, reports the AP. The Times notes that resolution says all Syrians "including members of the diaspora," should be able to vote, which is a requirement Kerry added in the hope that Syrians worldwide will vote against the Assad regime. (Read more Syria stories.)