Britain has insisted that President Bashar al-Assad had no place in Syria’s future, after the United States conceded it would have to negotiate with him to end the country’s civil war.
"Assad has no place in Syria’s future," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said yesterday, in response to the comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
"As the (British) foreign secretary said last week, we will continue applying sanctions pressure to the regime until it reassesses its position, ends the violence and engages in meaningful negotiations with the moderate opposition."
After years of insisting Assad’s days were numbered, Kerry told CBS television in an interview broadcast yesterday that Washington would have to negotiate with the iron-fisted leader to end the war.
"Well, we have to negotiate in the end. We’ve always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva I process," the top US diplomat said.
British officials pointed to a statement by deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who denied that Kerry’s comments represented a shift in US policy on Syria.
"@JohnKerry repeated long-standing policy that we need negotiated process w/regime at table – did not say we wld negotiate directly w/Assad," she said in a Twitter message.
The devastating civil war entered its fifth year yesterday, with more than 215,000 people having been killed and half of the country’s population displaced.