Montreux (Switzerland) (AFP) – The United States on Wednesday led a fierce denunciation of the Syrian regime and vowed it would step up support for the opposition as it seeks to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The top U.S. diplomat, John Kerry, set the tone when he stressed before 40 nations and international organizations gathered at a landmark peace conference in Switzerland that Assad could play no part in Syria’s future leadership.
“There is no way -– no way possible in the imagination -– that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern,” Kerry insisted.
“One man and those who have supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and a region hostage,” said the U.S. secretary of state, who has led efforts with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to launch the peace talks and end the three-year war.
“There will be parallel efforts being made, even while the talks are going on, to find different pressure points and find a solution,” he told reporters from the world’s media, refusing to go into detail.
“I will just say to you that lots of different avenues will be pursued, including continued support, augmented support to the opposition.”
Washington has provided more than $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and has been supplying non-lethal material such as body armour, communications equipment and night-vision googles to the armed rebels.
But so far it has refused to directly supply weapons and machinery to the opposition forces — now fighting against both Assad and a wave of Al-Qaeda extremist groups flooding into the chaos.
U.S. military option still on the table
It remained unclear from Kerry’s remarks whether the Obama administration was now prepared to review its weapons ban.