U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave in to Russia’s demand to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power Tuesday.
Negotiations in Moscow between the U.S. and Russia have finally yielded some results.
Kerry caved and told the Associated Press following the meeting that the United States and its allies are “not seeking so-called regime change.” This is a major shift from White House priorities, though Kerry did note that the U.S. still believes Assad is incapable of lifting Syria out of years of civil war. Kerry also thinks that Assad has committed numerous human rights violations.
Kerry went so far as to say that the demand from rebel groups, namely that Assad needs to step down as soon as peace talks begin, is pointless.
Both Russia and the U.S. agreed that ISIS will play no part in the peace talks.
What happens to Assad now seems less important than what happens with the Islamic State, indicating a clear evolution in U.S. strategy regarding Syria and Iraq.
President Barack Obama first called on Assad to step down in 2011– a call which has been repeated for years, though that call later softened. U.S. officials said that Assad wouldn’t be made to step down on the first day of the transition away from the Syrian regime.
Russia, in contrast, has held to the same line since the beginning: Outside governments, according to Russia, have no say in determining internal sovereignty in Syria. Who leads Syria is a matter for Syrians themselves to decide, though the U.S. has accused Russia of interfering in that process by launching airstrikes against Syrian rebels while pretending to hit ISIS positions.
In turn, Russia has accused the U.S. of not utilizing its full arsenal against ISIS because it wants the terror group to destabilize the Assad regime.
For Kerry, the cooperation between Russia and the U.S. is a “sign of maturity.”
A follow-up conference is set to take place on Friday in New York.
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