Kerry concedes U.S. must talk to Assad to end war

U.S.-ally Britain insists that Assad has no place in Syria’s future

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The United States will have to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the civil war now entering its fifth year, Secretary of State John Kerry conceded in an interview that aired Sunday.

“Well, we have to negotiate in the end. We’ve always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva I process,” Kerry said in an interview carried out Saturday.

He stressed that Washington was working hard to “re-ignite” efforts to find a political solution to end the war.

The United States helped lead international efforts to kick-start peace talks between Assad and a splintered Syrian opposition, bringing the two sides together in Geneva for the first time early last year.

But after two rounds of talks, the negotiations collapsed in bitter acrimony and no fresh negotiations have been scheduled while the scale of the killing and devastation has mounted.

“Assad didn’t want to negotiate,” Kerry told CBS television.

“So if he’s ready to have a serious negotiation about the implementation of Geneva I, of course, if people are prepared to do that. And what we’re pushing for is to get him to come and do that,” he replied when asked if he would negotiate with Assad.

U.S. ally Britain insisted Sunday that Assad had no place in Syria’s future.

“Assad has no place in Syria’s future,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said, in response to Kerry’s comments.

“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.”

British officials pointed to a statement by deputy U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who denied that Kerry’s comments represented a shift in U.S. 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 on Sunday, with more than 215,000 people having been killed and half of the country’s population displaced.

(With AFP)