The UK foreign secretary has said that Bashar al-Assad must be ousted as part of any peace deal in war-ravaged Syria.
In his first public remarks on the issue since becoming the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson said it was the Assad regime’s “killing machine, his barrel bombs and, in the end, his fight for personal political survival” that had caused the 400,000 deaths, estimated by the United Nations, in the country.
Johnson made the comments in a column published in The Times ahead of a meeting in London on Wednesday of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee, which represents opposition groups in Syria.
The committee is backed by Saudi Arabia and Western powers and has been involved in stalled UN-mediated peace talks in Syria.
Johnson said the group's proposals offered the first credible picture of a peaceful Syria without Assad.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) September 7, 2016
He said the case for political transition in Syria was so widely held that "even the Russians have accepted it."
Syrian opposition to reject US-Russia ‘deal’
The Syrian High Negotiations Committee said it would reject any deal struck by Russia and the United States on Syria's fate that was very different from its own proposed transition plan.
The group's general coordinator Riyad Hijab made these remarks while presenting on Wednesday its road map to a new political settlement for Syria in London.
— Farrukh Ahmed (@Farrukhsaghir) September 7, 2016
The proposed process would start with six months of negotiations to set up a transitional administration made up of figures from the opposition, the regime and civil society. It would require Bashar al-Assad’s ouster at the end of those six months.
The transitional body would then run the country for 18 months, after which there would be elections in Syria.
The US is still not considering a no-fly zone in northern Syria as it might not help resolve the broader conflict in the war-torn country, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes said on Tuesday.
Rhodes’ comments came after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his call for a no-fly zone and the formation of safe zones for refugees in northern Syria during his China visit for the G20 summit there.
Rhodes also commended Turkey’s operations in Jarablus to rid its border of DAESH terrorists, saying it “has been a key priority” for a long time.
Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria on August 24 to clear DAESH from its border and to prevent territorial gains by the YPG, the Syrian branch of PKK which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the United Nations.
The Pentagon also lauded the gains made by the Turkish supported-FSA along the Syrian border.
Clearing Daesh along the Turkish border is “a very important strategic development in our overall campaign” to defeat the militant group, said the Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis on Tuesday.
Turkey ready to help US initiative
Obama floated the idea of joint action with Turkey to capture Raqqa during talks between the two leaders at the G20 summit in China, Erdogan said, according to Turkey's Hurriyet daily.
In remarks published on Wednesday Erdogan said Turkey would be ready to join any initiative proposed by the US to capture DAESH's stronghold in Syria.
100,000 more Syrians displaced in Hama province
Fighting in Syria's western Hama province displaced an estimated 100,000 people between August 28 and September 5, the UN said on Wednesday, citing the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the governor of the province.
The Syrian opposition launched an offensive last week in northern Hama, an area of strategic importance to the Syrian regime. The opposition rapidly captured the town of Halfaya. The regime’s forces have hit back with heavy air strikes.
Many people had fled from the fighting towards Hama city and neighbouring villages, as well as north into Idlib province, the UN said.