Kerry urges Assad to commit to peace ahead of ‘Friends of Syria’ talks

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on Wednesday, to make “a commitment to find peace in his country,” ahead of a the Friends of Syria bloc meeting in Amman.

Speaking at a press conference with the Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kerry said a U.S.-Russian proposed conference in Geneva will seek “to end the bloodshed what has cost tens of thousands of lives.”

“We would call on President Assad to make the same commitment to find peace in his country,” Kerry said.

He said if Assad was not prepared to discuss a political solution to end Syria's civil war, it will prompt the United States and other countries to consider increasing their support to the Syrian opposition.

The U.S. secretary of state also stated that Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, was taking part in Syrian conflict, with the Iranian support.

Earlier on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said both Iran and Hezbollah are “propping up” Assad and increasingly supporting him.

Forces loyal to Assad have made gains on the ground during the past few days, according to Kerry. However, he regarded those gains as “very temporary.”

The Wednesday meeting of the Friends of Syria bloc in Jordan aims to seek a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the main topic up for discussion is set to be the U.S.-Russian proposal for peace talks.

Delegates from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, are attending the meeting.

Hague said Britain would urge international powers to set a date, in the next few days, for an international conference to try to end the two-year-old conflict engulfing Syria and threatening regional stability.

“It is the longstanding view of the U.K. that Assad needs to go, and we have never been able to see any solution which involves him staying,” Hague told a press conference.

The aim of the meeting, Hague stressed, would be agreement on the formation of “a transitional government with full executive authority, formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

In a rare twist, Syrian Ambassador to Jordan, Bahjat Suleiman, has denounced the Friends of Syria meeting of nations that back the Syrian opposition, calling the gathering part of a U.S.-Israeli campaign to destroy his country.

According to The Associated Press, Suleiman criticized Arab nations for attending the Amman meeting, saying they are assisting Washington in its “aggressive, terrorist war, on behalf of Israel, to destroy Syria.”

Earlier this month the United States and Russia, which support opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, proposed a peace conference, dubbed Geneva 2, which would bring together rebels and representatives of Assad’s regime.

The U.S. official described the conference as “the most serious effort in the last two years to get the Syrian government to sit down and negotiate with the Syrian opposition.

“In my experience we haven’t seen a push that has such clear support from the Russians, from the United Nations,” he told reporters.

A French diplomatic source told AFP the Geneva conference “comes at a time when the regime is taking the lead on the ground as its supporters are getting more and more involved.”

Jordan had announced that for the first time in the 26-month conflict, the opposition, whose chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib resigned last month, had not been invited to the Friends of Syria meeting.

But the opposition Syrian National Coalition received a last-minute invitation to meeting in Amman, and acting chief George Sabra will attend, a spokesman said.

Spokesman Soner Ahmed said “the Coalition received a late invitation and has confirmed its participation in the meeting of the Friends of the Syrian people.”

“The Coalition will be represented by its interim president, George Sabra, who is now flying to Amman,” he added.

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