Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested Thursday that President Bashar Assad should no longer lead Syria in the wake of the chemical attack that killed dozens there and said “steps are underway” in the international community to remove him from power.
“Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly,” Tillerson said, explaining that U.S. officials believe Assad’s regime orchestrated the attack. “With the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”
Tillerson described a push to remove Assad as likely an international effort. He did not elaborate on how that would happen nor comment on reports that the United States is considering military strikes in the Middle Eastern nation, though he said the use of chemical weapons requires a “serious response.”
“The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires an international community effort,” Tillerson said. “Both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country, to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.”
Tillerson also criticized Russia for its alignment with Assad.
“I think, further, it is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime,” said Tillerson, who will travel to Moscow to meet with Russia’s foreign minister next week.
President Donald Trump did not detail his own thinking on how to respond to the situation in Syria while speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, according to a pool report. He reiterated that “what Assad did is terrible” and suggested that some action is needed.
“I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity, and he’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen,” Trump said.
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