US: Assad no longer potential peace partner for Israel

Top US State Department official says it's difficult to pursue other diplomatic missions while Syrian regime violently puts down protests.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
April 27, 2011 01:12
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad

assad speech 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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WASHINGTON – After two years of pushing Israel to reach a peace agreement with Syria, a top US State Department official indicated Tuesday the Obama administration is no longer looking at the current regime as a partner for such a deal.

“It’s hard for us to stand by and see [President Bashar] Assad and his government engage in the kind of things they’re doing against their own people and to then think easily about how to pursue other diplomatic missions,” Jacob Sullivan, director of policy planning at the State Department, told reporters.

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At the same time, he said that the US continues to believe it is important to engage with Syria in order to clearly communicate the US position on the actions Syria is taking in putting down opposition protests.

Sullivan said at this point there are no plans to withdraw the newly installed US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford or otherwise cut off contacts. He noted that the Syrian ambassador in Washington had been summoned to the State Department after the most recent attacks on civilians, and that Ford had held several conversations with top Syrian officials in recent days.

But Sullivan said the US is also looking at the possibility of imposing sanctions on Syrian leaders and is consulting with international partners on this and other potential steps to halt the bloody crackdown Assad has ordered on opposition protesters.

“President Assad is on the wrong track,” Sullivan said, condemning the civilian deaths.

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He added, though, that the US is focused on “diplomatic and financial” initiatives aimed at the Syrian regime rather than military intervention as has taken place in Libya.

He also repeatedly declined to label Assad an illegitimate ruler or call for him to go, as the US did in Libya with Muammar Gaddafi once the Libyan leader began to shoot at protesters rather than accede to their demands for reform.

“Ultimately, the future of Syria is up to the people of Syria,” Sullivan said.

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