WASHINGTON - With barely a few days to go before the international peace conference on Syria , U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he sees no role for Syrian President Bashar Assad in a transition government trying to lead the Middle East country a out of civil war.
“If he thinks he’s going to be part of that future, it’s not going to happen,” the top American diplomat told reporters in a joint appearance with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts at the State Department, adding that “The bottom line is we are going to Geneva to implement Geneva-1.”
He was referring to the Geneva Communique adopted in June 2012 by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and four Middle East countries, which calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body in Syria to lead the country out of a protracted conflict that broke out in March 2011.”And if al-Assad doesn’t do that, he will invite greater response in various ways for various people over a period of time, “ Kerry said, warning “Now we also are not out of options with respect to what we may be able to do to increase the pressure and further change the calculation.”
In a letter sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem confirmed Damascus’s attendance in the upcoming talks in the Swiss city of Montreux, also known as Geneva II, but said his country’s focus would be on fighting “ terrorism.” “I believe as we begin to get to Geneva and begin to get into this process, that it will become clear that there is no political solution whatsoever if al-Assad is not discussing a transition,” Kerry said.
Some 30 countries have been invited by the United Nations to attend the ministerial meeting in Montreux on January 22. Opposition forces in Syria remain divided over the questions of whether and under what conditions to participate in the talks.