Kerry to Al Arabiya: No shift in American Middle East policy

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Al Arabiya Hassan Muawad met US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Bahrain, and interviewed him, about the region’s issues. Here are some selected topics which were tackled during the interview:

QUESTION: Mr. Kerry, first of all, you must have heard the reports that Syrian regime troops and their allies are launching a major attack against the opposition south of Aleppo. Is – this is the end of the truce?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, they’re launching an attack, to our understanding, against Nusrah. And under the cessation of hostiles, Nusrah and Daesh are both targets of everybody. So we will be talking directly with the Russians to make certain that that is what the limit of the attack is, but it is fair game to go after Nusrah.

QUESTION: Do you think that such attacks would affect the Geneva talks, which are due to be restarted soon?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, providing it’s against Nusrah and providing it is against Daesh, it shouldn’t affect the talks. But there are also been an occasion when Ahrar al-Sham or Jaysh-al-Islam or somebody has also, unfortunately, been accused of stepping over the line. What we’re trying to do is keep people from fighting. We’re trying very hard to get everybody, all sides, all people who have signed up to the cessation of hostilities, to respect the cessation of hostilities. We will make certain, through our task force in Geneva and our task force in Amman that are working on this every single day – we will make certain that the regime is not violating this by using Nusrah as an excuse to attack people who have signed up for the agreement. That would be a violation.

QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Kerry, now, it is said that the negotiation – negotiating position of Mr. Assad probably has been strengthened as a result of recent military successes his troops made recently. Do you agree to that?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I don’t agree with that, because it doesn’t matter what he does on the ground. The fact is Bashar al-Assad cannot possibly regain legitimacy in order to run Syria. No one will believe – or very few people will believe that he is capable of uniting the country that he has gassed, that he has barrel bombed, that he has tortured, that he has starved, and that he has driven into exile, created refugees and created displaced people. How can that man become the legitimate leader of the country in the future? I don't believe that can happen and nobody I know believes that can happen. So he needs to understand the Russians and the Iranians support a transition in Geneva. That’s what they’re negotiating. And if Assad does not agree to have a legitimate transition, Russia has indicated they will not continue to support him. And we will certainly see an increase in violence and a return to war. This whole challenge of a peace process depends on Assad being reasonable.

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