STATE DEPARTMENT —
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Doha for a meeting of foreign ministers backing Syrian rebels.
Saturday's meeting in Qatar is the first session of the so-called "Friends of Syria" group since the United States announced plans to arm rebel forces trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As rebel and government forces continue to fight north of the Syrian city of Aleppo, diplomats are pressing for the negotiated solution of a transitional authority for Syria.
"There is a unanimity about the importance of trying to find a way to peace, and not a way to war," Kerry said. "The Assad regime is making that very difficult."
Kerry and British Foreign Minister William Hague want direct talks in Geneva between Syria's government and its opponents. It is a plan backed by the European Union and many Arab states, including Egypt.
"Egypt has always demanded a negotiated political solution to the crisis, and we are working to gather all of the opposition forces so that they are represented in Geneva and so that those talks express the will of all the Syrian factions including the internal opposition," said Kamel Amr, Egyptian foreign minister.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said there is no military solution to the conflict.
"First of all to agree absolutely with the minister that we are supporting what has become known as Geneva 2, the process of helping to find a political solution, which is in the end the solution that is going to be necessary if we are going to end the bloodshed, stop the fighting and bring peace," she said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there is much work ahead at Saturday's meeting in Doha.
"We will try to establish the situation on the ground," he stated. "And see how we can help the opposition coalition and bring about a political outcome. One must not forget that every day dozens and dozens of people are killed in Syria."
French leaders have discussed the possibility of Assad ally Iran joining Geneva talks. Fabius said all those with a "useful position" are welcome, but that means accepting the executive powers of a transitional authority.
"Iran did not accept the aim of the conference, to take part in it. If the new Iranian president made explicit statements to move in this direction, we will see what the position is," noted Fabius.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pushing for Iran's inclusion and said those who would arm rebels based on what he calls "unconfirmed accusations" of Damascus using chemical weapons will only further destabilize Syria.