Kerry said top U.S. diplomats are ready to go to Geneva next week to meet with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and other officials to advance the political process.
Doha was the first stop on Kerry's two-week trip through the Middle East and Asia. He is to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues today and Monday with Indian officials in New Delhi -- just one stop on a seven-nation tour where he will tackle prickly U.S. foreign policy issues -- from finding peace between the Israelis and Palestinians to trying to gain traction on U.S. talks with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan war.
James Dobbins, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived in Doha on Saturday, but talks with the Taliban, which were supposed to take place in coming days, have not been scheduled. They are to be held at a controversial new political office the Taliban just opened in Doha.
Kerry said the Americans and Qataris were on board to help negotiate a political resolution to the war but that it is up to the Taliban to come to the table. "We are waiting to find out whether the Taliban will respond," Kerry said, lowering expectations about the prospects for negotiation.
"We will see if we can get back on track. I don't know whether that's possible or not," he said. "If there is not a decision made by the Taliban to move forward in short order, then we may have to consider whether the office has to be closed."
At the close of the meeting, the eleven nations -- the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Britain, Germany, France and Italy -- expressed concern about the growing sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict, renewed their call on the regime to let U.N. investigators probe the reported use of chemical weapons and condemned the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq.
In a joint news conference in Tehran, Iran Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Lebanese counterpart, Adnan Mansour, lambasted Western powers that arm and support Syrian opposition fighters.
"I am shocked to see how Western powers speak of human rights and act otherwise when it comes to Syria -- where they arm cannibals who fought in Syria so that they [opposition fighters] continue their atrocities more than before," Salehi said.
In their communique, the ministers expressed support for a transitional governing body that would take charge of military and other government institutions. However, they added that "Bashar Assad has no role in the transitional governing body, or thereafter."
That is a sticking point with Russia, a key Assad ally that has resisted calls for his removal. Russia might have worked to assure the Assad government's attendance at any future peace conference, but Moscow also has been undermining peace efforts by sending more weapons to help the regime's counteroffensive against the rebels.
Russian leaders warn that, if Assad steps aside, the resulting power vacuum could be quickly filled by al-Qaida connected rebels, who are well-armed and aggressive.