US envoy to UN says ousting Assad is still among priorities, Moscow slams rhetoric as ‘sabotage’
While seeking a “political solution” in Syria is still one of the “multiple priorities” for Washington, ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad also appears to be no less important for the White House.
“Getting Assad out is not the only priority. And so what we’re trying to do is obviously defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Hayley told CNN in an interview.
“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” Hayley said, echoing the “Assad must go” approach of the Obama administration.
She went on to say that “regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.”
The comments come after an escalation in Syria, as the US pinned the blame for the alleged chemical attack in Idlib on the Syrian Army, and subsequently hit a military airfield in Homs with a cruise missile volley in “retaliation” earlier this week.
Hayley’s stance regarding President Assad contradicts her own remarks made just ten days ago, when she stated that ousting Syria’s strongman was no longer a priority for the US.
“You pick and choose your battles and when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” Haley told reporters on March 30.
Hayley’s statement is a “direct sabotage” of international efforts to achieve peace in Syria, the head of Russia’s Upper House Committee for International Relations, Konstantin Kosachev, wrote in a Facebook post.
“Both moderate and armed opposition will read the US opinion. ‘And what’s the reason to go to Geneva or Astana after that?’ they’ll ask,” Kosachev wrote.
“And after reading that, they’ll take up arms again. Shoulder-to-shoulder with brave Americans, who by bombings of government airbases give an example of how one should really behave without any conventionalities”
“And we’re not talking about the terrorist groups, where not everyone can read, but all of them can fight,” Kosachev added.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CBS’ Face the Nation (in an excerpt released Saturday) that the number one priority is defeating IS – which would open up possibilities for political negotiations and nationwide dialogue in Syria.
“Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” Tillerson said.
“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions.”