US rules out military solution to Syria war
REUTERS PhotoU.S. Vice President Joe Biden ruled out a military solution to end Syria’s conflict in remarks published on March 7, calling for a political transition despite the difficulty.
“That should be clear to everyone,” Biden told Abu Dhabi newspaper The National at the start of a visit to the United Arab Emirates ahead of travelling to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, according to Agence France-Presse.
“So as hard as it is, we have to keep trying to reach a political settlement,” he said.
Saudi Arabia, which backs the Syrian opposition, and ally the UAE have said they are willing to send ground troops to Syria under U.S. command to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Biden’s comments come as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its opponents are to this week resume U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva as a fragile cease-fire holds in Syria since Feb. 27.
The talks are aimed at ending the five-year Syria war that has killed more than 270,000 people, displaced millions and devastated the country.
The fate of al-Assad, who is refusing to step down, has been one of the main sticking points in the talks.
“A political solution between the parties is the only way to end the violence and give the Syrian people the chance they deserve to rebuild their country. To create a credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian system, a new constitution and free and fair elections,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition on March 7 agreed to attend the new round peace talks after the landmark ceasefire led to a dramatic drop in fighting.
The truce between al-Assad’s regime and non-jihadist rebels, brokered by Russia and the United States, has defied expectations and led to the first significant decline in violence in Syria’s nearly five-year civil war.
The United Nations is hoping it can now restart talks on a political transition that collapsed last month in Geneva.
The opposition, represented by the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), had held off on committing to the talks but on March 7 said the 10-day-old “cessation of hostilities” was making a difference.
“After consultations, the High Negotiations Committee agreed to go to Geneva. The delegation is expected to arrive on Friday [March 11],” Riad Naasan Agha, a spokesman for the group, told AFP.
“We have noticed a sharp decline in cease-fire violations in recent days and progress in the humanitarian file,” particularly with regards to aid deliveries to besieged towns, Agha said.
A source close to the regime delegation said March 7 that the Syrian government had been invited to Geneva on March 14.
“The delegation received an invitation on Sunday [March 6] from the United Nations, asking us to take part in negotiations starting March 14 in Geneva,” the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Biden said the truce that went into effect in Syria “seems to be holding” but was “not perfect.”
He noted, however, that “levels of violence have dropped significantly across the country” and said this opened the way for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.