France stresses won't negotiate with Syria's Assad
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
French Defense Minister Le Drian, French FM Fabius, Japanese FM Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani shake hands during a meeting in Tokyo. AFP photoFrance insisted March 16 that a solution to the crisis in Syria could only come through a "political negotiation between different Syrian parties" but reiterated that President Bashar al-Assad "cannot" be one of them.
"Our position is clear," said foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal, after US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged talks with Damascus would be necessary to end the conflict which is entering its fifth year.
"Our goal is a negotiated political settlement between the different Syrian parties that leads to a unity government. It is clear for us that Bashar al-Assad cannot be in this framework," added Nadal.
Kerry told CBS television on Sunday: "We have to negotiate in the end," when asked if he would talk with the Syrian leader.
His spokeswoman later stressed that the comments indicated no change in US policy, saying "there is no future for a brutal dictator like Assad in Syria."
But Syrian media touted the statement as a reversal in US policy that acknowledged Assad's "legitimacy".
Assad himself said he was waiting for US "actions" after Kerry's comments.
Nadal said any unity government should include "certain structures of the existing government, the national coalition and others who have a moderate and inclusive vision of Syria that respects the different communities in the country."
Syria's government insists Assad's departure from office is not up for discussion, while the opposition and its backers have long insisted he can have no role in the country's future after a bloody four-year civil war.