The Obama administration is not seeking a “regime change” in Syria, indicating that the U.S. has bowed to demands from Russia to let the Syrian people decide the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press reported.
Kerry said that countries participating in talks on Syria’s future are focusing “not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad,” but instead looking at achieving a peace process during which “Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria.”
President Obama first demanded that Assad be removed from power in 2011. The West has determined that Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, in addition to committing other human rights violations.
However, in October, the administration indicated that it was open to allowing Assad to remain in power for several months as a political transition takes place in Syria, which has been embroiled in civil war for years.
Russia has long argued that Syrians would have to make leadership decisions themselves and that a foreign government could not force Assad’s ouster.
“No one should be forced to choose between a dictator and being plagued by terrorists,” Kerry said Tuesday, referring to the rise of ISIS in Syria. Yet, he added that the Syrian opposition’s call for Assad to leave power when peace talks begin is a “nonstarting position, obviously.”
International talks on Syria, led by the U.S. and Russia, will take place in New York beginning Friday.
Russia has ramped up its involvement in Syria in recent months. Moscow began intervening militarily in the country in September with the claim of helping the Assad regime fight ISIS.