US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday announced the appointment of a new US special envoy to Syria, Michael Ratney, who will replace his predecessor Daniel Rubinstein.
Michael Ratney is a fluent Arabic speaker and former US Consul General in Jerusalem. He has served in several Arab countries, including Qatar, Lebanon, Morocco and Iraq, according to the state Department.
Ratney’s predecessor, Daniel Rubinstein, is a US Foreign Service diplomat who had also served as Consul General in the US consulate in Jerusalem. Rubinstein followed Robert Ford on March 14 of this year.
Rubinstein had directed the State Department’s Office of Israeli and Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem. He is expected to be named the next ambassador to Tunisia.
Kerry referred to the complex situation in Syria and the challenges facing Ratney’s leadership, but also expressed his confidence in the appointment.
"I am confident he will continue the important work led by his predecessor, Daniel Rubinstein, to shape our response to the complex and devastating conflict in Syria," Kerry said in a statement.
Kerry added that he was impressed by Ratney's "keen intellect, deep knowledge of the region and policy judgment."
Kerry reasserted the US commitment to reach a political solution for the Syrian conflict ”away” from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ratney, the third US envoy to Syria since the civil war in the country began four years ago, will soon travel to the region, according to the statement, and seek "an end to the violence and a future of freedom and dignity for all Syrian people."
"We remain committed to reaching a negotiated political transition away from Bashar al-Assad, working to counter the shared threat of terrorism, supporting the moderate opposition and addressing the humanitarian disaster and its impact on Syria's neighbors," Kerry said.
The US is "[working to] counter the shared threat of terrorism, supporting the moderate opposition, and addressing the humanitarian disaster and its impact on Syria’s neighbors," he added.
The war in Syria started in 2011 in the form of anti-government demonstrations, but descended into a civil war between five main factions - the regime, the opposition, the Al Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, ISIS, and the Kurdish YPG militia.
A US-led coalition began airstrikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIS targets last September.
More than four years of fighting in Syria has left over 230,000 Syrians dead, according to UN estimates. More than 6.7 million Syrians are displaced internally while at least 5 million others have fled to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.