John Kerry has called for negotiations with Assad to bring about an end to the war in Syria. Kerry, speaking following his meeting with UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond, stressed that the migrant crisis could only be solved by stopping the violence in Syria.
The US and Russia have been at odds over the situation in Syria with the latter protecting the Syrian regime in the diplomatically through the use of its veto against UN resolutions. The recent build up of Russian forces in Syria has raised concern amongst US officials who have sought clarification from their Russian counterparts.
Kerry appeared to suggest during his statement that the Russian build up had more to do with combating ISIL than protecting the Assad regime, stating that there was a need to “use this moment when Russia appears more committed to doing more” against IS. Other analysts suggest that Russia has become increasingly concerned with the Assad regime’s series of defeats at the hands of revolutionary forces and are seeking to bolster his position and therefore protect their sphere of influence. Whatever the situation, the US appears to be stressing that there is common ground with Russia in the war on ISIL.
Negotiations with Assad?
Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have stated that Assad cannot be part of any Syrian future and have supported opposition forces. Many believe the recent score of successes for the opposition are as a result of Turkish-Saudi cooperation. However Kerry stated that “We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table?” The US has expressed concern over the presences of ISIL and believe that the Syria conflict has served as an incubator for terrorist groups. The Arab states argue that Assad is the root cause of the conflict and his removal would enable a more coordinated response against the terrorist groups. The fear for the Arabs and the Syrian opposition however, is that US concern over ISIL will push the US to accept Russia’s bid to keep Assad in power.