March 18, 2015 / 8:59 AM / 2 years ago

U.S. seeks negotiated settlement in Syria that excludes Assad: envoy

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Iranian Minister of Economy and Finance Ali Tayebnia in Damascus March 16, 2015, in this picture released by Syria's national news agency SANA.SANA/Handout via Reuters

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The United States still wants a negotiated political settlement in Syria that excludes President Bashar al-Assad, and its position on the Syrian leader has not changed, top U.S. envoy John Allen told Turkish officials late on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the U.S. would have to negotiate with Assad, though the State Department later said he was not specifically referring to the Syrian leader and that Washington would never bargain with him.

Kerry's comments drew condemnation in Turkey, one of Assad's most strident opponents, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying negotiating with the Syrian leader would be like shaking hands with Adolf Hitler.

"General Allen reiterated that the United States' position on Assad has not changed," the U.S. embassy in Ankara said in a statement after Allen, the special envoy responsible for building the anti-Islamic State coalition, held talks in Ankara.

"The United States believes that he has lost all legitimacy to govern, that conditions in Syria under his rule have led to the rise of ISIL (Islamic State) and other terrorist groups, and that we continue to seek a negotiated political‎ outcome to the Syrian conflict that does not in the end include Assad."

Allen held "constructive talks" with Turkish foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu late on Tuesday and welcomed Turkey's support in the training of vetted members of Syria's opposition, the statement said.

Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by David Dolan and Ralph Boulton

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