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Kerry urges Syrian rebels to negotiate

| Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

LONDON — Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the leaders of Syria's moderate opposition are weighing whether to join a peace conference next month in Geneva, even as he added his voice to a chorus of 10 other nations calling for a renewed commitment to negotiations to end Syria's bloody civil war.

“This war will not come to an end on the battlefield,” Kerry said at a news conference in London after talks on the crisis. “It will come to an end through a negotiated settlement.”

Kerry met with foreign ministers from the “London 11” — a core group from the Friends of Syria group consisting of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States — and with senior Syrian opposition leaders.

The London meeting was intended to lay the groundwork for the peace talks in the Swiss city, with the goal of the opposing sides in Syria — representatives of President Bashar al-Assad's government and the rebels — coming together to establish a transitional governing body.

However, it was unclear during the talks whether the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, would attend talks in Geneva as a united front.

The Syrian National Council, a prominent group with representatives in the Syrian Opposition Coalition, has said it would boycott the Geneva meeting, declaring it would not deal with representatives of Assad's government.

Even so, Kerry said he thought it could happen.

“I believe that the conference can happen next month. I'm hoping it will happen next month,” he said. “Obviously, there are other players. . . . They are independent, and they have to exercise their own rights here.”

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