Kerry doubles down on demand that Assad must go

“There has to be a new governing entity in Syria in order to permit the possibility of peace.”

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Critics, including Security Council members Russia and China, say it's up to the Syrian people to negotiate their future, and the United States and other Western powers should not set preconditions.

“Our partners are currently fixated on the ideological task to have the regime replaced because a couple of years ago, they made a statement that President Bashar Assad had no future whatsoever except to quit and leave,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russia's Channel One TV in an interview last month. “I am sure that the nations of the West did so in order to prove that the Middle East will 'dance to their tune.' This is a strictly political agenda.”

The idea of a peace conference under the auspices of the United States and Russia was first announced by Kerry in May following a meeting with Lavrov in Moscow. It has been repeatedly pushed back since then, but last month's deal on Syria's chemical weapons has rekindled hopes that it could happen after all.

“We have said that this conference ... has to meet in November,” Brahimi said. “And I think that very soon we’ve got now to set it ... And of course the Syrians themselves have to have private place in that conference, because the negotiations will be depend on them.”

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