Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “a war criminal” and that the United States would not accept that he could again run for election again in the war-torn country.
Haley on April 3 told a news conference that Assad has been “a hindrance to peace for a long time” and that his treatment of Syrians was “disgusting.”
“We don’t think that the people want Assad anymore,” she said. “We don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have.”
Assad’s future has been the key barrier in negotiations aimed at ending the six-year civil war in Syria.
In August 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad must leave power. In 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad must go, but that the timing of his departure could be a subject of negotiation.
Haley on March 31 said the Trump administration was not pursuing a strategy to push Assad out of power, echoing comments made by other U.S. officials who said the focus for now is ending Syria’s six-year civil war and defeating Islamic State (IS) militants.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 30 said that Assad’s future was up to the Syrian people.
Reporters asked Haley at the April 3 news briefing if that meant Washington would accept that Assad could again run for the presidency in elections.
“No, it doesn’t mean that the U.S. will accept it,” she said.
UN-brokered talks in Geneva have failed to make progress toward ending Syria’s civil war, which began in March 2011 when protests broke out against Assad’s government.
Since then, at least 300,000 people have been killed and millions of others have been displaced.
The United States and Turkey support various groups fighting the government, while Russia and Turkey back Assad.
Islamic State fighters have also entered the conflict and are opposed by both sides.
With reporting by AFP and AP.