British FM says Assad must quit for settlement in Syria

Hague said Assad remaining at the helm was “an obstacle to peace”

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must stand down to allow for any peaceful settlement to the 33-month-old conflict in his country.

“We have always been very clear that a peaceful solution in Syria must require the departure of President Assad,” Hague told a press conference in Kuwait City after talks with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.

“It is impossible to imagine after so many deaths, so much destruction, a regime oppressing and murdering its own people on this scale” should remain in power, Britain's chief diplomat said.

“It is impossible to imagine, I think, President Assad could remain on the scene in Syria in the future,” Hague said.

The reiteration of Britain's call for Assad's ouster came just weeks ahead of an international peace conference on Syria slated for January 22.

The government in Damascus has said Assad will remain president and lead any transition agreed at the conference, while the opposition and rebels fighting the regime insist he play no role.

Hague said Assad remaining at the helm was “an obstacle to peace,” and that he would not be accepted by Britain or any other Western country.

But no Western power could guarantee when Assad departs.

“We believe it is imperative for him to go,” said Hague, renewing Britain's recognition of the opposition Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of Syria's people.

Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba is due in Kuwait early Saturday on his first official visit to the Gulf state.

The Kuwaiti foreign minister stressed the importance of the visit, ahead of both the Geneva II peace conference and a “Kuwait 2” donor conference in Kuwait City set for mid-January.

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