'Getting Assad out' no longer a US priority
A picture taken on March 9, 2017 in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which was recaptured by government forces in December 2016. (AFP/Joseph Eid)
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The US ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that Washington is no longer focused on ousting President Bashar al-Assad as it seeks ways to end Syria's civil war.
"You pick and choose your battles," Nikki Haley told reporters. "And when we're looking at this it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out."
Haley was speaking after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had signalled a change in the US stance by admitting that Assad's eventual fate was up to the Syrian people.
Speaking at the US mission to the United Nations, which is about to assume the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, Haley said Washington will focus on the push for a political solution.
"Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done? Who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria," she said.
"We can't necessarily focus on Assad the way the previous administration maybe did. Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes," she said.
"Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."
Haley said she would focus on ways to remove the influence of Assad's ally Iran, which has supported him in his civil war against rebel forces.
And she said Washington would work with other players in the conflict, including Turkey, to seek a long term solution.
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.
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