WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration maintained Friday that President Bashar Assad shouldn't lead Syria any longer, rejecting a Russian claim that the U.S. has changed its position.
Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying Washington now accepts Moscow's argument that Assad's future shouldn't be open for negotiation right now.
Assad's Russian-backed government & Western-supported rebels recently concluded a round of peace talks & will meet again next month. Secretary of State John Kerry visited President Vladimir Putin & other Russian officials in the Kremlin this week to plot the next steps.
p>State Department spokesman John Kirby said: "Any suggestion that we have changed in any way our view of Assad's future is false. Assad has lost his legitimacy to govern. We haven't changed our view on that."
The U.S. softened demands last year for Assad's immediate departure, yet still insists he should resign at some point in a political transition process. Russia says outside powers shouldn't try to determine Syria's leadership. Assad has offered no indication he is willing to leave power.
At least 250,000 people — & perhaps as many as a half million — have been killed in the five-year civil war. The fighting moreover has spawned Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II & has led to the emergence of the Islamic State group.
Politics & GovernmentGovernmentBashar AssadSyriaPresident Vladimir Putin
Source: “Associated Press”