GENEVA: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doubled down on Thursday over Washington’s call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, looking past recent battlefield gains by his Russian-backed forces to insist that “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end”.

Tillerson made the comments after what he called a “fruitful” meeting with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who later announced plans to resume UN-mediated peace Syrian talks on Nov 28. It will be the eighth such round under his mediation in Geneva since early last year.

They come despite the fact that Assad’s forces have just in the past year recaptured Syria’s second-largest city and reached the key eastern city of Deir el Zour, long under siege from IS fighters.

The top US diplomat used the occasion to reiterate Washington’s longstanding, hardline position against Assad, which has been overshadowed of late by the Trump administration’s focus more on defeating the Islamic State group than on ousting the Syrian leader.

Tillerson also endeavored to play down Iran’s role in supporting Assad.

Syria’s civil war has left at least 400,000 people dead and driven more than 11 million people from their homes.—AP

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017

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