QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, yesterday you said that Assad is not part of any long-term solution in Syria. That seems to suggest you envision some compromise in which he perhaps could stay on in the interim, perhaps similar to what the foreign secretary suggested a few weeks ago. Just what exactly do you have in mind? What kind of time limit would the U.S. accept?
SECRETARY KERRY: …
With respect to Assad and longevity, what I said is consistent with what I’ve always said about Syria that I think the last year and a half we have said that Assad has to go. But how long, what the modality is, that’s a decision that has to be made in the context of the Geneva process and negotiations. We’ve said for some period of time that it doesn’t have to be on day one or month one or whatever. There is a process by which all the parties have to come together and reach an understanding of how this can best be achieved.
And I don’t have the answer as to some specific timeframe. I just know that the people of Syria have already spoken with their feet. They’re leaving Syria. They’ve made it clear through the barrel bombs that have killed innocent children and parents and kids in school, and dropped on hospitals, the pictures of people tortured, starved, with their bodies brutalized and proven 10,000 strong that this is a man who has committed war crimes. He has gassed his own people. Everybody in the world knows that. So what is the legitimacy with respect to the future? Obviously, in the end, it is up to the people of Syria to decide. And we have made our position very clear.
But we need to get to the negotiation. That’s what we’re looking for, and we hope Russia and any – Iran, other countries with influence, will help to bring about that, because that’s what’s preventing this crisis from ending. We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table and actually find the solution to this violence? Those are the pregnant questions. And we’ve made it very clear we’ve been open. We’ve made it very clear that we’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time. We’re open. But right now, Assad has refused to have a serious discussion and Russia has refused to help bring him to the table in order to do that. So that’s why we’re where we are.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: We’re completely aligned on this issue. Assad has to go. He can’t be part of Syria’s long-term future. But the modality and the timing has to be part of a discussion about a political solution that allows us to move forward and to avert further humanitarian suffering.
The full remarks of Secretary Kerry and Foreign Secretary Hammond can be found here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2015/09/247071.htm