Talks on a political solution to the civil war in Syria got under way Friday, with 17 countries plus the United Nations 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 United States 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 United Nations was represented by its special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.
Just ahead of the talks, 40 people were killed Friday when rockets fired by Syrian government forces crashed into a market in a rebel-held area outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.