New UK foreign minister Boris Johnson tweaks his ′Bravo for Assad′ stance | News | DW | 19.07.2016
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New UK foreign minister Boris Johnson tweaks his 'Bravo for Assad' stance

The new British foreign minister has called on Russia and others to support the ouster of Syria's president. His statement represents a back pedaling from earlier praise for Assad's assault on "Islamic State."

The departure of President Bashar al-Assad is crucial to resolving the conflict in Syria, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said ahead of talks with his US and European counterparts on Tuesday.

"I will be making clear my view that the suffering of the Syrian people will not end while Assad remains in power. The international community, including Russia, must be united on this," Johnson will say, according to remarks released by his office in advance of the meeting.

This statement comes ahead of a meeting with Germany, France, Italy and the European Union in London to discuss Syria's five-year conflict, which has spurred the rise of the "Islamic State" (IS), sucked in regional and major powers and created the world's worst refugee crisis.

Johnson adopts the UK's 'Cold War mindset'

Syrien Wüstenstadt Palmyra

The ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, where ruins were partially demolished by IS was recaptured by Syrian and Russian forces

His latest anti-Assad statement is in line with longstanding British policy but a reversal from his earlier stance. Speaking in December, before his appointment as foreign secretary, Johnson had called for Britain to set aside a "Cold War mindset" when dealing with Russia over Syria.

In a newspaper column in March titled "Bravo for Assad," Johnson credited the Syrian strongman for saving the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, from IS militants.

"No matter how repulsive the Assad regime may be - and it is - their opponents in Islamic State ...are far, far worse," Johnson wrote in London's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Assad has powerful allies in the region including Russia and Iran. Moscow has made clear it would only consider Assad's departure if there were guarantees the Syrian government itself would not fall leading to a power vacuum that would further destabilize the region and harm Russia's strategic interests.

The last round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition militias broke up at the end of April as Assad's forces, backed by Russian air strikes, escalated their assault on rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo.

jar/kms (Reuters, dpa)

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