- Tillerson Says Russia Should Give Up ‘Unreliable Partner’ Assad
Russia has chosen to align itself with an “unreliable partner” in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and can either join Western nations to play an important role in the country’s future or stick with his failing regime, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
Tillerson, who spoke to reporters in Italy shortly before heading to Moscow for meetings with top officials, said Russia should rethink its decision to ally with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah in the Middle East. He said the U.S. decision to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria after an April 4 chemical weapons attack was “necessary as a matter of U.S. national security interest.”
“We want to create a future for Syria that is stable and secure,” Tillerson said on Tuesday. “Russia can be part of that future and play an important role or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interest longer term.”
Tillerson reiterated the U.S. policy that it will first focus on fighting the Islamic State and then shift to the political future of Syria. But he made explicit that the U.S. sees no future for the Assad regime in Syria.
“It is clear to all of us that reign of the Assad family is coming to an end but the question of how that ends and the transition itself could be very important in our view to the durability, the stability inside a unified Syria,” Tillerson said.
He reiterated his criticism of Russia for failing to guarantee a 2013 agreement to secure and eliminate Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpiles.
“Stockpiles and continued use demonstrate that Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on its 2013 commitment,” Tillerson said. “It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously or Russia has been incompetent, but this distinction doesn’t much matter to the dead. We can’t let this happen again.”
The U.S. attack was also motivated by a refusal to accept what Tillerson called “the normalization of the use of chemical weapons” in Syria and elsewhere. He also said the U.S. doesn’t want the regime’s chemical weapons to fall into the wrong hands.