April 5, 2016 / 4:47 PM / in 2 years

Kerry: Syria talks to test if Assad can negotiate in good faith

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends a news conference together with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2016 REUTERS/Alexander Nemenov/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Upcoming peace talks on a political transition in Syria will test whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can negotiate in good faith, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday before a fresh round of negotiations in Geneva.

“The key right now is whether Assad is capable of negotiating in good faith, and we have to put that to the test,” Kerry told Bloomberg Television in New York.

Assad has said he thinks the Geneva talks, which are meant to resume around April 9, can produce a new Syrian government that includes opposition, independents and loyalists, but has rejected the idea of a transition authority.

But Syria’s opposition has consistently said it wants a halt in attacks on civilians and for the Geneva talks to result in a transitional governing body for Syria that does not include Assad.

Kerry, who is working with Russia to persuade Assad to step down, repeated that there was no way to end the Syrian war with Assad still at the helm.

“I don’t see any way possible for Assad to remain because there is no way to end the war while he is there, there is no way to end the violence, there is no way for him to unify the country,” Kerry said, “so Iran and Russia, and others need to recognize if you want peace, Assad has to transition.”

Exactly how the transition happens is up to the talks, Kerry said.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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