US sees no place for Assad in Syria future: Tillerson

The US hopes Russia will abandon its support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because actions such as last week's chemical attack have stripped him of all legitimacy, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during the G7 meeting in Italy.PHOTO: REUTERS
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview in Damascus, Syria, on April 3, 2017.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview in Damascus, Syria, on April 3, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

LUCCA, ITALY (AFP) - The United States sees no place for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any peace resolution for the war-torn country, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday (April 11).

As the G7 called at a meeting in Italy for a diplomatic push to resolve the conflict and create a lasting peace for a unified Syria, Tillerson said: "Our hope is Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that future.

"The United States' priority in Syria and Iraq remains the defeat of ISIS," he added, using a term for the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"As events shift, the United States will continue to evaluate its strategic options and opportunities to de-escalate violence across Syria," added Tillerson, who was headed for crunch talks in Moscow after the meeting of G7 foreign ministers.

The United States has hardened its stance on Damascus since a suspected chemical weapons on a rebel-held Syrian town that killed at least 87 civilians and triggered a retaliatory US bombing raid on a Syrian air base.

Washington and its allies are pushing for Russia to rein in the Syrian regime but the G7 ministers failed to agree on whether fresh sanctions should be imposed on Damascus and Moscow.

Tillerson repeated his accusation that Russia had "failed to uphold the agreements that... stipulated Russia, as the guarantor of a Syria free of chemical weapons, would locate, secure, and destroy all such armaments in Syria".

As he headed to talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, he said it was "unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously" or had "been simply incompetent".

G7 foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday "no future in Syria is possible with Bashar al-Assad", French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

He said the message for Russia was: "That's enough now. There must be an end to hypocrisy and a very clear return to the political process".

"This is not an aggressive stance towards Russia, rather a hand out-held, with clear intentions," he said.