WASHINGTON, DC — The State Department is now saying that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad will “never” be part of peace negotiations, but members of his regime could play a role in ending the bloodshed and suffering in the war-torn nation.
Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that the U.S. is willing to talk with Syrian dictator Assad.
The State Department on Monday said that is not the case.
“There always has been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of that process,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. “It would not be and would never be, and it wasn’t what Secretary Kerry was intending to imply, that that would be Assad himself.”
Kerry’s comments have drawn the ire of foreign governments considered allies of the United States.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that negotiations with Assad would be tantamount to shaking hands with Adolf Hitler.
“If you sit down and shake hands with al-Assad after all those massacres and despite the chemical weapons that you [the United States] declared a red line, then your hand will be never be erased from history,” said the Turkish PM.
Davutoglu applauded the State Department backtracking on Kerry’s comments.
“We welcome that denial. But I call on all Western public opinion, Europe, and America. You will have no sincerity if you dare to cooperate with the Syrian or Egyptian regimes by ignoring the democratic demands of the Syrian and Egyptian peoples while at the same time considering democracy and human rights as natural rights when it comes to Europe,” he said.
On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Psaki said that negotiations in Syria would be in the context of a 2012 Geneva message that called for a political transition in the war-ravaged nation.
“As Secretary Kerry and many members of the Administration have said many times, the only way to bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people is through a genuine political solution consistent with Geneva principles,” she said.
Psaki pointed out that the U.S. has been guided by the wishes of the moderate Syrian opposition in its role as a broker of any peace conversations.
“Obviously, there would need to be representatives of the regime. That’s always been the case,” she added. “But I think it’s also important to remember, for everyone, unfortunately there’s no process that’s ongoing right now, so we’re purely talking about how it would work potentially if there were to be a process in place.”
“Certainly the opposition, they could sit at a table with themselves or with their partners, and that wouldn’t result in a political process or the conclusion of a political process that would bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people,” also said Psaki.
The Syrian moderate movement is reportedly dead. Moderate Syrian rebel factions have reportedly disbanded and joined Islamic extremist groups.
When asked if he would negotiate with Assad, Kerry told CBS News, “We have to negotiate in the end,” adding that “what we’re pushing for is to get him to come” to talks.
Nearly a quarter million people, including thousands of children, have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which has now entered its fifth year. Millions more have been displaced by the conflict.
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83.