Diplomats from the “London 11″ — a group of 11 Western and Middle Eastern nations working to reach a settlement to end the Syrian civil war — called Tuesday for a transitional government in Syria.
The group, meeting in London on Tuesday, said it backed “the formation by mutual consent of a Transitional Governing Body (TGB) with full executive powers, including over security, military and intelligence structures.” They also demanded that President Bashar Assad have no role in Syria’s future, according to a communique released by the group.
The group also called for the upcoming Geneva II peace conference to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity.
The peace talks are tentatively set for late November in Geneva with members of Assad’s government, but moderate opposition members of the Syrian National Coalition have still not committed to participate in the meeting.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said SNC officials are still weighing whether to enter negotiations with Assad to create a new government and end the nation’s bloody civil war.
Kerry spoke after meeting Tuesday with SNC President Ahmad al-Jarba, and said he was hopeful that negotiations could begin as early as next month.
But Kerry said al-Jarba’s coalition would decide within the week whether it was ready to meet with Assad’s government on ways to move forward after two-and-a-half years of war.
Both Kerry and al-Jarba were in London meeting with diplomats from “London 11″ countries.
Bolstered by infighting among Syrian opposition groups, including some whose links to al-Qaeda have jeopardized foreign aid for the rebellion, US officials say Assad has a stronger hold on power now than he had several months ago when the US and Russia called for a new round of talks. Still, Kerry said Assad’s recent gains do not assure his future in a new government.
“I don’t know anybody who believes that the opposition will ever consent to Bashar al-Assad being part of that government,” Kerry told reporters Monday in Paris where he was participating in talks about another Mideast crisis, between Israel and Palestinian authorities.
“But I do not believe that it is dependent on whether you’re up or down,” Kerry said. “There’s a human catastrophe awaiting the world if you can’t have a negotiated solution.”
Kerry said the negotiations with Assad’s government are likely to take place late next month, but would not confirm they have been set for November 23, a date mentioned by other officials.