British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will remain in office due to Russia’s support, amid a decision by the US to withdraw troops and a race among Arab states to normalize ties with the Syrian government.
The senior British diplomat made the remark in an interview with Sky News on Thursday, as Syrian government troops, with the help of Russia’s air cover, have so far managed to restore full control over vast regions of the country once occupied by terrorists and militants.
“The British long-standing position is that we won’t have lasting peace in Syria” with Assad in power, Hunt said, but added that “we do think he’s going to be around for a while, and that is because of the support that he’s had from Russia.”
This is the first time a British minister has spoken so frankly about the reality on the ground in the Arab country.
President Assad’s seven-year term in office will end in 2021.
The UK, just like some other Western countries, including the US, has in the past demanded that Assad step down, alleging that the Syrian leader has no legitimacy to rule after launching alleged attacks, including with chemical weapons. London’s allegations, however, have been strongly rejected by Damascus and Moscow.
The Syrian government has stressed on numerous occasions that it has not used and will not use chemical weapons against its own people.
Elsewhere in his remarks during a three-day trip to Asia, Hunt said that Russia “gained a responsibility” in Syria in restoring peace
“If you’re going to be involved in Syria then you need to make sure that there really is peace in Syria,” he said.
He also said that Russia was responsible to prevent any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
Western governments and their allies have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack takes place.
Syria surrendered its entire chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations.