News / Middle East

Kerry Sees No Transitional Role for Syria's Assad

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, speaks to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh during a meeting at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Rome, May 9, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, speaks to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh during a meeting at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Rome, May 9, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has toughened his stance on the fate of Syria's president, saying Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of a transitional government that would try to lead the country out of its civil war.

Kerry made the comment Thursday in Rome at a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

"The foreign minister will work with us, as they have, to try to bring all the parties to the table so that we can effect a transition government by mutual consent of both sides, which clearly means that, in our judgment, President Assad will not be a component of that transitional government,'' Kerry said.

The statement appears to clarify the U.S. position.

On Tuesday, Kerry said it is "impossible" for him as an "individual" to see President Assad governing Syria in the future, but he added that the Syrian president's fate is not for him to decide.

That comment came in a Moscow meeting with the foreign minister of Russia, which has insisted that only Syrians should determine the future of Assad, a longtime Russian ally.

In his Rome remarks on Thursday, Kerry also announced an additional $100 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for the Syrian people. He said the aid includes $43 million to help Jordan deal with the influx of more than half a million Syrian refugees from the two-year conflict.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh said Amman appreciates the assistance. He said Syrian refugees constitute 10 percent of Jordan's population and warned the figure could rise to 40 percent by the middle of next year at the current rates of entry.

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed this week to call an international conference later this month to press for peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels fighting to oust Assad.

The talks would be based on a June 2012 Geneva peace plan backed by major powers. It calls for the formation of a transitional government leading to elections, but does not specify Assad's political future.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Thursday the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has agreed to stay on in the post in response to the U.S.-Russian initiative. Brahimi previously had expressed doubts about whether his diplomacy would achieve results.

Eliasson said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon takes the U.S.-Russian announcement "very seriously" and will try to mobilize everyone to pursue a political rather than military solution in Syria.

The Syrian foreign ministry said it welcomes what it called the U.S.-Russian "rapprochement." It expressed confidence that Syrian ally Russia will maintain a "firm stance" against foreign interference in the internal affairs of any state.

But, Damascus said the credibility of U.S. support for a political solution depends on Washington working with its allies to stop "terrorism" - the term used by the Assad government to describe the rebellion.

Syria's main opposition coalition told VOA on Wednesday that any political solution to the civil war must begin with Assad and top security officials leaving power.

In an interview with VOA's Encounter program, Georgetown University security analyst Paul Pillar said Lavrov moved closer to the U.S. position by saying Russia is concerned about the Syrian people rather than any individual - an apparent reference to Assad.

"We are talking here about the prospect of a negotiated agreement in which Assad is not around as president. It would be a new political order in Syria, but one in which each of the confessional communities including the Alawites, including the Christians, as well as the majority Sunnis see themselves as having a role, and not simply having to fight to the death," said Pillar.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez says if a political solution is not possible, he wants the Obama administration to have congressional support for arming Syrian rebels.

In an interview with VOA's sister television network Alhurra, Menendez said he is working on Senate legislation that would give President Barack Obama permission to provide shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, or MANPADS, to "thoroughly vetted" opposition elements.  

"I think it may change the calculus of Russia and others if in fact the rebels can ultimately succeed in having military victories against Assad, and that would move us closer to an opportunity where a political solution can take place," Menendez said.

In an interview with Encounter, the head of the anti-Assad Syrian American Alliance Mahmoud Khattab said any supply of U.S. weapons to Syrian rebels also would send a message to the Syrian president.
 
"The only time he will be willing to negotiate (is) when he feels the military balance has changed on the ground," said Khattab. "And, that is why it is really important for the United States to take the steps and arm the rebels so that Bashar al-Assad will understand that President Obama is getting serious here."  

President Obama said Tuesday his "bottom line" for deciding how to hasten a resolution of Syria's civil war is whether any measure is in the best interests of U.S. security.

VOA's Encounter program and Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs