Kerry says he has been told Assad means to enter real negotiation

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he has been told Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad means to enter real negotiations to resolve Syrian crisis.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA (NOVEMBER 14, 2015) (REUTERS) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad plans to enter meaningful negotiations as part of a political solution to his country’s civil war outlined at peace talks on Saturday (November 14), according to intermediaries, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“We are told through our partners in this effort – those at the table with us – that he is prepared to be serious, prepared to send a delegation, prepared to engage in a real negotiation,” Kerry told a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the United Nations special envoy to Syria Steffan de Mistura after Saturday’s high-level talks in Vienna.

Kerry said the the crisis was not Syria’s alone to bear and the impacts of the war bled into all nations, as amplified by the attacks in Paris, claimed by Islamic State, which left at least 129 people dead.

“This crisis is not Syria’s alone to bare. The impacts of this war bleed into all of our nations,” said a clearly moved Kerry.

“From the flood of desperate migrants seeking refuge in the region or in Europe or beyond, to the foreign terrorist fighters who make their way into Syria to join the ranks or groups like Daesh (Islamic State), to self radicalized fighters living among us, their minds poisoned by Daesh’s propaganda and lies.”

The United States, Russia and powers from the Middle East and Europe outlined a plan on Saturday in Vienna for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, but differences over the fate of President Bashar al-Assad remained.

A day after gunmen and suicide bombers went on a rampage through Paris, foreign ministers and senior officials from more than a dozen countries agreed to seek a ceasefire, but said it would not apply to Islamic State.

The Paris attacks shifted the focus of negotiations in Vienna from the detail of which organisations would count as opposition groups rather than terrorist ones, and could therefore take part in a political solution in Syria, to defeating Islamic State militarily.

Russia and the United States also seemed to turn a blind eye to their long-standing disagreement over Assad’s fate. The West and its allies say he must leave office, while his allies in Moscow and Tehran support elections in which he could stand.

The participants in the talks also pledged to “take all possible steps” to ensure they and the groups they support adhere to a ceasefire in Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed in the civil war.

“Our goal is of getting the two parties together by January. Every day that goes by that we don’t have a ceasefire is a day too many and the best way to get there is to get this political process moving as fast as possible, that’s what we are committed to do,” Kerry concluded.