Visiting Moscow after renewed calls to President Barack Obama to arm Syria’s rebels, US secretary of state John Kerry said Russia had agreed to try to arrange a conference as early as this month involving both Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s government and the Syrian opposition.
Speaking at a joint press conference following talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday night, Kerry emphasized that the Geneva Communiqué should serve as a road map to a new Syria without violence.
“It’s impossible for me as an individual to understand how Syria could possibly be governed in the future by the man who has committed the things that we know have taken place,” Kerry said, but added that the question of who should govern Syria should be settled by Syrians.
“So what we’re going to undertake to do is to try to get them in a position where [the opposition and the government] put people into a transitional government by mutual consent,” he added.
Lavrov said that Russia and the US were committed to seeking a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict. “We take on the obligation to make the opposition and government sit at the negotiating table,” he said.
“We have agreed that Russia and the US will encourage both the Syrian government and the opposition groups to find a political solution.”
While the Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group that represents many of the opponents of the Assad government, has yet to issue a statement on the matter, many of its members expressed skepticism about the proposal.
“No official position has been decided, but I believe the opposition would find it impossible to hold talks over a government that still had Assad at its head,” Samir Nashar, a member of the SNC, told Reuters.
“Before making any decisions, we need to know what Assad’s role would be. That point has been left vague, we believe intentionally so, in order to try to drag the opposition into talks before a decision on that is made.”