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Kerry: Assad Has to Go, But Timing Can Be Negotiated

By Times of Israel

Secretary of State calls on Russia and Iran to convince Syrian president he must step down, says ending conflict is of utmost urgency.

Syrian President Bashar Assad must leave office although the timing of such a move can be negotiated, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in London recently, following talks with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Kerry urged Russia and Iran, two key allies, to persuade Assad to negotiate his departure, Reuters said. The top US diplomat also expressed the urgency in finding a political solution to the four-year civil war in Syria, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced.

“We need to get to the negotiation. That is what we’re looking for and we hope Russia and Iran, and any other countries with influence, will help to bring about that, because that’s what is preventing this crisis from ending,” Kerry said. “We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table?”

He said Lavrov had told him Russia was interested only in confronting the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Syria but “I am not taking that at face value.”

Kerry also expressed concern about Russia’s movement of tactical aircraft to Syria — jets that could pose a threat to American and allied forces.   (my emphasis)

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