ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) — The White House is expressing hope that newly announced Syrian peace talks will bring new leadership to the war-torn country.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says removing Syrian President Bashar Assad is the goal of talks scheduled for Jan. 22 in Geneva.

The talks would be the first meeting of Syria's government and opposition groups since the beginning of a 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and destabilized the region.

Earnest told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama Monday that the talks are "the best opportunity" to form a new transitional government and end the suffering of the Syrian people. Earnest stressed there are many challenges ahead and said the process will be "very difficult."