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Kerry's 'Negotiate' Remark on Syria Sparks Alarm Among Assad's Foes

Secretary of State John Kerry's remark that President Bashar Assad should be included in political transition negotiations has set off alarm bells.
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BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed on Monday remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Assad should be included in negotiations to reach a political transition, saying "declarations from outside do not concern us."

In a CBS interview Sunday, Kerry didn't repeat the standard U.S. line that Assad had lost all legitimacy and so had to go. "We have to negotiate in the end," Kerry said when asked whether the U.S. would be willing to negotiate with the Syrian leader.

Kerry said the United States and other countries, which he did not name, were exploring ways to revive the diplomatic process to end the conflict in Syria. "What we're pushing for is to get him (Assad) to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds in order to do that," Kerry said.

Assad said in comments broadcast on Syrian state television Monday that any international change in attitude regarding Syria's situation would be positive, but that "any talk on the future of the Syrian president is for the Syrian people and all the declarations from outside do not concern us," he said.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said later on Sunday that Kerry was not specifically referring to Assad. She said Washington would never negotiate with the Syrian leader, but the comments caused ripples among countries opposed to Assad. France, a major U.S. ally, said its position was unchanged and that Assad could not be part of a negotiated solution in Syria.


- Reuters