United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should not take center stage in international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis in the Arab state.
“It is unacceptable that the whole Syrian crisis and the solution to the crisis have to be dependent on the fate of one man,” Ban told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday.
The remarks came ahead of a third round of international talks that are set to kick off Friday in New York, where foreign ministers from 17 countries including Iran, Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia, will explore ways of ending nearly five years of foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria.
The UN chief further pointed to differences over Assad’s political fate among the parties to the talks, saying some countries were “expressing some nuanced positions,” but this issue “will have to be decided later on.”
The first two rounds of such talks were held in the Austrian capital Vienna on October 30 and November 14.
There was consensus among the participants on the need to respect Syria’s national unity and sovereignty, but they remained at loggerheads over Assad’s role.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was not currently seeking regime change in Syria following lengthy talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Ban had adopted a similar stance prior to the second round of Vienna talks, saying only Syrians have the right to decide Assad’s role.
“It is totally unfair and unreasonable that the fate of one person takes the whole political negotiation process hostage. It is unacceptable,” the UN chief said on October 31.
The conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has left over 250,000 people dead, according to the UN. More than 12 million people have also fled their homes, while 5.6 million children are in dire need of humanitarian aid.
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