U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he expects Syria to take part in long-proposed peace talks, despite comments from Syrian officials who say negotiations cannot take place if they require President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Kerry reiterated Tuesday at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, that there is no military solution for the Syrian crisis, and said he hopes the government lives up to its "already stated promise" to negotiate.
"I hope that the Syrian government and the Russians and Iranians and others who support the Syrian regime will make certain that the Syrian regime will live up to its obligation to come to Geneva to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria. And we, and others, have already indicated we are prepared to be there, and the opposition is."
Kerry said that the goal of the talks has always been for both sides to agree on a transitional government that has full executive authority and will allow the Syrian people to decide on their long-term future.
On Monday, Syria's state-run SANA news agency quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi as saying the government will not take part in peace talks that require President Assad cede power.
Members of the Syrian opposition have insisted that negotiations cannot take place unless there is a clear plan for Mr. Assad's departure.
Meanwhile, U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is meeting Tuesday with diplomats from the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to discuss preparations for the Syrian peace conference.
The talks in Geneva are taking place in two sessions. Brahimi is meeting first with Russia's deputy foreign minister and the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, before taking part in a wider meeting that includes officials from Britain, China and France.
The U.S. and Russia have been working with Brahimi for months to try to arrange the conference, but no date has been set.
Also Tuesday, the Security Council will hear its first update on the operation to destroy all of Syria's chemical weapons.
Dutch diplomat Sigrid Kaag, who is heading up the U.N. mission, is due to give a closed-door briefing days after inspectors declared that Syria has destroyed its capability to make any new chemical arms.
The Syrian government has until November 15 to present a plan for how it will destroy its existing stockpile of chemical weapons by the middle of next year.