NEW YORK (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot play any role in a future political transition because it would not be credible to the Syrian people after so many deaths at the hands of his government, France’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
Some Western officials in recent weeks have suggested a role for the Syrian leader in a negotiated political solution to the crisis after more than four years of civil war that has killed some 240,000 people.
Outlining, Paris’ objectives for the U.N. General Assembly, Laurent Fabius, one of Assad’s staunchest critics, said that while demanding his immediate departure was not a precondition for talks, it was clear that the man behind 80 percent of deaths in Syria could not have a role in the future.
“There has been a lot of comment in the last few days on the role of Assad and whether he can or should be a stabilizing element in Syria,” he told reporters. “The truth is he is the main person guilty of the current chaos.
“If we were to say to the Syrians that the future of Syria lies in Assad, then we’ll expose ourselves to failure,” he said.
Fabius said he supported U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura’s initiative to work towards a political transition based on the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, a document setting out guidelines on Syria’s path to peace and a political transition.
“We have to redouble our efforts,” he said, adding that he would discuss the issue with key players including the United States, Turkey, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia in the next few days.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to launch a new initiative for a political solution in Syria during meetings in New York this week, diplomats said.
Fabius said that the talks this week would also seek to clarify Russia’s military build-up in Syria, adding that if it went beyond defending its interests in the country would complicate any political transition.
Fabius also said France would push in the coming days for a relaunch of the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, warning that the status quo could benefit Islamic State militants.
Paris is trying to launch an international “contact group” at the United Nations that would comprise U.N. Security Council members, Arab states and the European Union with a view to reviving the peace process.
“France will not give up. It is not true that the status quo will hold,” he said. “If we wait while doing nothing then we are taking the risk of letting Daesh (Islamic State) claim the Palestinian cause as its own,” Fabius said, referring to the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sandra Maler