US rules out any role for Syrian president in transition

Washington, Jan 18: US Secretary of State John Kerry Friday once again ruled out any role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s future transition, as peace talks slated for next Wednesday will explore means to lead Syria into this process.

“If he thinks he’s going to be part of that future, it’s not going to happen,” the top American envoy told reporters in a joint appearance with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts at the State Department, Xinhua reported.

He added: “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 over a period of time,” Kerry said. “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,” he warned.

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 UN to attend the ministerial meeting in Montreux.