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Kerry 'confident' Syrian opposition groups will attend peace talks

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Pool via AP file

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, listens to Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah, left, during their joint news conference at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, on Sunday.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he was confident that Syrian opposition groups would show up at peace talks in Switzerland later this month — a key benchmark as the U.S. and allies try to negotiate a transition of power from embattled president Bashar Assad to a new representative government.

"Personally, I'm confident that the Syria opposition will come to Geneva," Kerry said at a news conference in Paris with his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah.

Kerry said attendance at the talks was a "test of the credibility of everybody."

He added: "That's why I am confident they will be there."

Elsewhere Sunday, the "Friends of Syria" — an alliance of primarily Western and Gulf Arab states who oppose Assad — called on opposition groups to participate in the talks, saying there was no other way to a political solution to the bloody conflict that has ripped the country apart for nearly four years.

The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition — a shaky coalition of opposition groups that has been plagued by internal bickering — is set to decide on January 17 whether it will make an appearance at the January 22 talks.

Meanwhile, a group tied to al Qaeda recaptured swaths of its stronghold in the northeast city of Raqqa on Sunday, activists say, undermining rival rebel groups.

Bloody clashes between the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and rival Islamists and more moderate rebels have killed hundreds over the last 10 days, rocking the extremist militant group headed by foreign jidahists.

And yet with the most recent counter-offensive, ISIL has recaptured much of the territory it lost, activists said.

Reuters contributed to this report.