The European Union's top diplomat says it is unrealistic to think that President Bashar al-Assad could retain power over any future government in a post-war Syria.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday that “it seems completely unrealistic to believe that the future of Syria will be exactly the same as it used to be in the past.”
She added: “It is for the Syrians to decide - but for all Syrians to decide.”
Her remarks at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg come as Washington appears to be softening its line against Assad.
In London Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested that Assad's status is not the most important question right now.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that “France cannot believe for one moment that Syria can be led by Bashar Assad given his responsibility for the current situation: more than 300,000 dead, prisoners, people tortured, a country destroyed. It's a question of responsibilities.”
International donors gather in Brussels on Wednesday to drum up financial aid and support for a lasting solution to the six-year-long conflict.
In a statement, the foreign ministers said the EU stands ready to help rebuild Syria but “only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition ... is underway.”
They also called on the Syrian regime and its backers, notably Russia, “to undertake all efforts to ensure: a full cessation of hostilities; the lifting of sieges; and full unhindered sustainable country-wide humanitarian access.”
They said the EU will work “to help ensure accountability for war crimes, human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including the confirmed use of chemical weapons.”