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Tillerson pushes for Syria peace talks

October 26, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reaffirmed a commitment to reviving the Geneva peace process. He added that Washington sees no future for President Bashar Assad in Syria's government.

New York US-Außenminister Rex Tillerson
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Vucci

Tillerson told reporters on Thursday that the reign of the Assad family was "coming to an end" after what he called a "fruitful" discussion with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who later addressed the UN Security Council by videoconference.

"The US wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar Assad in the government," Tillerson said. "The only issue is how that should be brought about."

But Assad's exit was not a "prerequisite" for the talks to start, Tillerson said.

Staffan de Mistura is expected to reconvene UN-mediated intra-Syrian talks on November 28. This comes after gains on the battlefield by Assad's Russian-backed forces.

These will be the eighth round of talks under his guidance since early 2016.

Opposition delegations — which do not include the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) or other UN-designated terrorist groups — have never spoken directly with Syrian government envoys under de Mistura's mediation.

No triumph for Tehran 

Tillerson also said the Syrian government's advances did not amount to a "triumph" for Iran, a key backer of Assad.

"I see Iran as a hanger-on," Tillerson said. "Iran has not been successful; the Russian government has been more successful. We have had success. I don't think that Iran should be given credit for the defeat of IS in Syria."

Russia-backed Syrian government forces as well as US-backed, Kurdish-led troops have recently led to a significant reduction in territory controlled by IS across Syria.

The US-backed forces recently ousted IS from its capital, Raqqa.

Raqqa declared free of 'Islamic State' militants - Q&A with Col. Ryan Dillon

jbh/kms (AP, Reuters)