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Kerry’s Offer to Negotiate With Syria’s Assad Seen as Sign of Weakness

A rebel of the Free Syrian Army prepares to shoot a rpg © Dona_Bozzi /

John Burger - published on 03/16/15 - updated on 06/07/17

Besieged leader says it's up to his people whether he stays or goes

The impression that many in the international community that the United States is not willing to act to stop the crisis in the Middle East is one factor that has stretched out that crisis, said an Iraqi priest who is involved in humanitarian aid efforts in the region.

"It’s clear by now that the Obama Administration doesn’t have any clear vision on what to do," said Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, of the Christian Aid Program in Northern Iraq. "People here feel he doesn’t have the courage to act, or they are always trying to compromise, even with people with whom there is no space to compromise."

Father Youkhana made his remarks in a Skype interview, reacting to news that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said over the weekend that Washington would be willing to talk with Syrian President Bashar Assad to help broker a political resolution to the country’s civil war.

Assad said Monday that only Syrians can decide his future — apparently dismissing Kerry’s remark, according to the Associated Press. 

Assad said Damascus is not concerned about comments made from abroad, describing them as "bubbles that disappear after some time." He spoke to Iranian TV after a meeting with visiting Iranian Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia. Tehran is one of Assad’s closest allies and strongest backers in his battle against rebels trying to remove him from power, AP said.

Kerry said in an interview with CBS News that the U.S. is pushing for Assad to seriously discuss a transition strategy to help end Syria’s four-year conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people since it started four years ago.

The availability of the Obama Administration to negotiate with the Assad is an "option that should have already taken place" and at this point is "a forced choice, if one really wants to find a way out of this tragedy which began four years ago," Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Hassaké-Nisibi told Fides News Agency. He said everything will depend on the way in which the negotiation will be proposed by the US and other geopolitical actors.

"First of all, a concrete proposal for negotiation has to be placed on the table as soon as possible," Archbishop Hindo said. "Otherwise, it will mean that one is just taking time, believing to favor the further weakening of the Syrian army, which in reality is gaining ground on all the various fronts."

"The impression that America is not going to act is one of the reasons this crisis has been stretched out," said Father Youkhana. "The American hesitation from the beginning weakened the moderate opposition, and who took advantage of that? The radical Muslims. The Free Syrian Army is almost gone. Now we see that they will be trained. It’s too late."

Christians in the Middle EastSyria
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