The Latest: Johnson: Assad should run in vote to resolve war
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):
Britain’s foreign minister says Syrian President Bashar Assad should be permitted to run for election as part of a “democratic resolution” of the civil war in the Mideast nation.
Boris Johnson, speaking on Thursday to the international relations committee at the House of Lords, described Britain’s position on Syria as “catastrophic.”
He says Britain “played itself out of the game” in 2013, when lawmakers voted against military action, but could serve a peacekeeping role in a future political solution.
He says that now, an election “properly supervised by the U.N.” and giving displaced Syrians a vote “might be the way forward.”
The fighting in Syria, which began with an Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the Assad family’s four-decade rule, is estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people since March 2011.
A senior European Union official says it is too early to comment on reports of U.S. plans for safe zones in Syria.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the European Union “will consider plans when they come.”
She was asked Thursday to comment on reports that U.S. President Donald Trump is directing the Pentagon and State Department to “produce a plan” for safe zones in Syria within 90 days.
Speaking at a press conference in the Lebanese capital, Mogherini said the EU wants to see a political solution and a political transition in Syria that would allow “every single Syrian” to return to their country.
She said “we need to turn this from a proxy war to a proxy peace, and our role is to facilitate.”
Turkey says details of a three-way mechanism to enforce a cease-fire in Syria are still being worked out after talks between the warring parties, and warned it would not tolerate “spoilers.”
The two-day talks in Kazakhstan ended Tuesday with an agreement among Russia, Iran and Turkey to consolidate a Dec. 30 cease-fire, take joint action against extremist groups and jumpstart peace negotiations. Russia and Iran are close allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey supports the armed opposition.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told reporters Thursday that Turkey “won’t allow those called ‘spoilers’ — the spoilsports — to overshadow the efforts that are being undertaken.”
He also reiterated Ankara’s position on Assad, saying “a person who is responsible for the deaths of 600,000 civilians has no place in Syria’s future.”
A Turkish official says his country has always supported the idea of safe zones in Syria but would need to review any U.S. plans before commenting.
U.S. President Donald Trump is directing the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan for safe zones in Syria within 90 days, according to a draft executive order he is expected to sign this week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told reporters that Turkey has “seen the reports on a request for a study on the safe zone,” adding that “what is important is to see the result of these studies.”
He pointed to the Syrian city of Jarablus, where thousands of Syrians have returned after Turkish-backed opposition forces drove out the Islamic State group, as a good example of what can be achieved.
The Kremlin says a U.S. plan for safe zones in Syria should be thoroughly considered.
Asked to comment on a draft executive order that President Donald Trump is expected to sign this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, underlined the importance to “thoroughly calculate all possible consequences” of the measure. He noted Thursday that “it’s important not to exacerbate the situation with refugees.”
While suspending visas for Syrians and others, the order directs the Pentagon and the State Department to produce a plan for safe zones in Syria and the surrounding area within 90 days.
Safe zones, proposed by both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the campaign, were considered by the Obama administration years ago and ruled out, in part because of Russia’s air campaign in Syria.