Kerry urges al-Assad to commit to peace ahead of talks

Kerry urges al-Assad to commit to peace ahead of talks

AMMAN - Agence France-Presse
Kerry urges al-Assad to commit to peace ahead of talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks near Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh during the joint press conference on May 22, in Amman. AFP photo

US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on May 22 to commit to peace, but said support for the opposition will continue if he rejects talks.

"We would call on President Assad to make the same commitment to find peace in his country," Kerry told a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh ahead of a meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Amman.

Kerry said a US-Russian proposed peace conference in Geneva seeks "to end the bloodshed what has cost tens of thousands of lives." "In the event that we can't find that way forward, in the event that the Assad regime is unwilling to negotiate Geneva 1 in good faith, we will also talk about our continued support and our growing support for the opposition to permit them to continue to be able to fight for the freedom of their country." That was a reference to an international conference last June in which several steps were laid down for ending the war, which were never implemented.

Kerry said the Syrian conflict "is really challenging the conscience of the world." "So we are committed to try to work this evening to find the unity in specific approaches, to find the unity to implement Geneva 1... that will allow the people of Syria to choose the future of Syria," he said.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are attending the Amman gathering.

The meeting seeks to discuss US-Russian proposal to hold a peace conference dubbed "Geneva 2" to bring together rebels and representatives of Assad's regime.

"These are big stakes, and I don't have any illusions about how difficult it is to find that path forward. The goal -- to end the bloodshed what has cost tens of thousands of lives," Kerry said.

"I would ask anybody of common sense, can a person who has allegedly used gas against his people, can a person who has killed upwards of 70,000 people... used tanks and shells against women and children... can that person be judged to have the legitimacy to lead that country in the future? "That's at the centre of that struggle and that's why this discussion is not easy." Britain and Qatar urged Assad to step down.

"It is the longstanding view of the UK that Assad needs to go, and we have never been able to see any solution which involves him staying," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in Amman.
 Qatar, a key supporter of the Syrian opposition, echoed that.

"A political solution must be reached to end the conflict and meet the aspirations of the Syrian people who, as we know, demand changing the regime and changing President Bashar al-Assad, who insists on killing his people," Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said in Doha.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 90,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.