U.S. wants Syrian Geneva conference as soon as practically possible

The U.S. wants a conference that will allow the Syrian government to transition away from the rule of Bashar al-Assad to occur as soon as possible, the State Department said on Wednesday.

Patrick Ventrell, the director of the State Department's press office, made the remarks on Wednesday during a daily press briefing. Ventrell responded to questions about the lack of progress with Russia on setting a firm date for a new Geneva conference on Syria. The conference is meant to serve as a jumping off point for Syria in its transition to a new government for all Syrians.

Ventrell said that while there have been delays, the U.S. wants the conference to occur as soon as it can.

"We want it as soon as is practically possible," Ventrell said. "We understand the difficulties here. You know, certainly with Iranian and Hezbollah activity inside of Syria, some of the complications that this has caused. But we and the Russians and the U.N. all agree on the importance of a political settlement. We know that it's the best path to peace. (Secretary of State John Kerry) said that. And we'll continue to make that case and continue to work through the diplomacy because we need a negotiated, political settlement."

Ventrell said that Assad's regime wants to hold peace talks, but he said the regime does not yet understand that people coming to peace talks must be focused on protecting the rights of all Syrians.

"We want both sides to come to the table in good faith, understanding that the purpose of the talks is to implement the Geneva framework, which includes the outcome of a transitional government with full executive authority," Ventrell said.