LONDON (AP) — The world powers working to promote a resolution to Syria's civil war plan to resume talks next week in Vienna, with U.N.-led, indirect peace negotiations between Syria's government and opposition representatives expected to follow some days later, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
Speaking at the U.S. Embassy in London, Kerry said the 17-member International Syria Support Group will meet on May 17. The group is co-chaired by the U.S. and Russia but includes Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.
The August deadline that the U.S. has set for starting a political transition was a target, not a drop-dead endpoint for negotiations, Kerry said. The U.S. ultimatum has spurred speculation that if the deadline is blown, U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia might respond by giving the opposition stronger weapons to fight Assad, including portable surface-to-air missiles.
"If by Aug. 1 nothing is happening, it will be exceedingly difficult to look anybody in the eye, the opposition and others and say we're making progress," Kerry said. "That in and of itself will be dangerous because then those people may well decide they're just going to up the ante militarily."
Kerry says indirect peace talks between the Syrian opposition and President Bashar Assad's government will likely resume "some days" after the Vienna meeting. Those U.N.-led talks have been stalled since the opposition suspended participation last month in protest.
Kerry says the Vienna talks aim to build on a U.S.-Russia agreement announced Monday to try to restore a nationwide cease-fire. He says they'll discuss the truce's duration and enforcement, plus the political process.