STATE DEPARTMENT — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to London Wednesday for a meeting of foreign ministers from nations backing opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Those countries are boosting their support for the rebellion in the absence of talks on a transitional government for Damascus.
With rebel and government forces battling for control of areas in the northern province of Hama, prolonged international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis are on hold.
Stepping down as the chief international mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi pointed out that Syria's conflict eventually will end.
"The question is how many more dead, how much more destruction there is going to be before Syria becomes again the Syria we have known?" asked Brahimi.
Kerry said President Assad is blocking a political solution.
"This represents the continuation of the stubborn clinging to power of a man who is willing to drop barrel bombs on his people, to gas them, to shell artillery on innocent civilians, to starve people in their homes, and somehow claim a right to be able to run a country. I don't think the civilized world is going to stand for that," said Kerry.
President Assad is running for re-election, denouncing his opponents as terrorists who he says are fighting to topple Syrian democracy. It's a strong position for the president, said former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli.
"Bashar al-Assad is not going to make any concessions, is not going to negotiate in good faith, is not going to entertain any kind of change to the status quo as long as he's sitting pretty. And he is sitting pretty. He's in control," said Ereli.
Syrian opposition leaders want more from the international community to break President Assad's control.
"We are asking to be able to neutralize that air force so that the Assad regime understands that it cannot win this militarily. If the Assad regime is pressured, we believe that the sponsors, the Russians and the Iranians, will understand that there is no way but a political solution," said Rime Allaf, a senior advisor to the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
Absent a political solution, the international community must do more to protect civilians, said Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Sarah Margon.
"There needs to be a change. There needs to be a reason for all parties to come to the table. But even before that, I think what we're looking at is just basic fundamental calls for civilians not to be stuck in the middle of this conflict. Children should not be starved," said Margon.
Secretary Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius say the London meeting also will press Syria's government to comply with a deal to hand over its remaining stockpiles of chemical weapons.