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Kerry, Brahimi call for urgent Syria peace talks in Geneva

'We believe it is urgent to set a date, convene the conference and work towards a new Syria,' US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

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U.N-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (L) speaks as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks on after their meeting at Winfield House in London on Oct. 14, 2013. (Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, both pressed for a long-talked about international peace conference on Syria's civil war on Monday.

"There has to be a transition government, there has to be a new governing entity in Syria in order to permit the possibility of peace," Kerry said, adding that the "Geneva II" conference needed to be organized sometime mid-November.

Kerry and Brahimi spoke to reporters after a closed-door meeting at the US ambassador to Britain's residence in the UK.

"There can be, there will be, a political solution if everyone gets together and works for it," Brahimi said. "Very soon we have to set a precise date."

Kerry emphasized the need for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from power and allow a transitional government to take charge of the war-torn nation.

“We believe that President Assad has lost the legitimacy necessary to be a cohesive force that could bring people together,” he said.

Brahimi announced that he was going to the region after the Muslim festival of Eid "to see as many people as I can to discuss with them, to hear from them what are their preoccupations, what are their ideas and how they can contribute to this Geneva conference."

The war between the Assad regime and various factions of an armed rebellion has killed more than 100,000 Syrians and displaced millions, a large number of them children living in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Russia, a strong ally of Assad's, urged the United States on Monday to persuade the Syrian opposition to take part in the Geneva talks.

On Sunday, the leader of the Syrian National Council, the largest group in the Syrian opposition coalition, said his group would not take part in peace talks or negotiate with the Syrian government.

"Ghouta (agricultural belt around Damascus) is under siege and it is forbidden to even bring in bread. Are these the conditions that will allow us to achieve... a democratic transition in Syria?" George Sabra said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/131014/kerry-and-brahimi-call-urgent-syria-peace-talks-geneva