By Ali Kushki

White House ‘open’ to working with Russia, Iran on Syria 

May 16, 2017

TEHRAN – Indicating a possible shift in U.S. policy on the war in Syria, the White House announced on Monday it is “open” to team up with Russia and Iran on a solution to end the crisis in Syria. 

“As we’ve said before, the United States remains open to working together with both Russia and Iran to find a solution that leads to a stable and united Syria,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told press conference. 

“But in order for us to work together to bring an end to the violence in Syria, Russia and Iran need to acknowledge the atrocities of the Assad regime and use their influence to stop them.”

Iran and Russia unfailingly back President Bashar al-Assad as the legitimate president of the country and disagree with calls on him to step down. 

Spicer did not mention Turkey, another key actor in the Syrian battlefield which has launched missions inside the Syrian soil mainly to fight U.S.-backed Kurdish Peshmerga forces who have inflicted heavy losses on ISIS terrorists in northern areas. 

Since taking office in January, the Trump administration has shown major shifts in its Syria policy.  

Late March, Washington doubled down on prioritizing the fight against ISIS over halting the Syrian civil war and removing Assad with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley saying that "our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.” 

Similar comments were made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his maiden visit to Turkey in March. 

Washington, however, launched a “one-off” missile attack against a Syrian airport early April in response to a chemical attack that killed 70 people in Syria, which Washington and most Western countries blamed on the Assad government.

In response to attack, Russia froze an agreement with the U.S. to coordinate air operations over Syria, an accord that was meant to prevent accidental encounters between the two militaries. 

Washington, the spokesman added, will endorse the political transition process contained in UN security resolution 2254, and support the political process taking place under UN oversight in Geneva.

While 21 UN Security Council resolutions have been passed on the Syrian crisis since its outbreak in 2011, UN Resolution 2254 was the first one which focused exclusively on a political solution to the crisis. It was adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015. It also emphasizes a new constitution to be drafted for Syria, UN-supervised elections and accountable governance. 

The comments came one day before the sixth round of Syrian peace talks began under the auspices of the UN in the Swiss city of Geneva as part of efforts to facilitate a political resolution of the Syrian conflict. 

The five previous rounds of the UN-mediated negotiations in Geneva brought together representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups but failed to yield concrete results.

Comparatively, four rounds of the Astana peace talks, an initiative taken by Russia, Iran and Turkey, have achieved great success since the beginning of 2017 as a ceasefire took force. 

During the fourth round of the talks, the three countries also agreed to create four de-escalation zones in Syria, a major achievement so far. 

AK/PA  

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