U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday in Vienna after meeting with representatives of 17 countries that he had "agreed to disagree" with his Iranian and Russian counterparts on the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Kerry said that while the diplomatic talks did not produce a clear-cut framework, he would continue to meet with the foreign ministers, as early as next week, to find a way to overcome that disagreement.
"There is no way President Assad can unite and govern Syria," Kerry said. "We believe Syrians deserve a different choice. And our goal is to work with Syrians from many factions to develop that choice. But we can't allow that difference to get in the way of the possibility of diplomacy to end the killing."
Kerry laid out a series of points that the participating countries agreed on, including defeating the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and increasing access for humanitarian organizations to deliver aid. "At the end of the day ... there is absolutely nothing that would do more to fight ISIS than to achieve a political transition," Kerry said.
All of the participants in the talks agreed on one factor that they had not agreed on in past talks: Under the new plan, Syria's state institutions would remain intact. Kerry said the U.S. is also pushing for a new constitution and elections supervised by the United Nations.
The Vienna talks came as the White House announced that fewer than 50 troops will go to Syria to "train, advise and assist" Kurdish militant forces.
Reporters questioned White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday in a media briefing on the specifics of President Barack Obama's previous vows of "no boots on the ground" in Syria. Earnest said the announcement about sending special operation forces into Syria was in line with Obama's strategy of intensifying support for people battling ISIS.
The State Department confirmed Friday that Kerry would likely hold more meetings on a Syrian political transition next week.