UK doesn’t see future for Assad in Syria
LONDON - Bashar al-Assad has no future as president of Syria even if he overpowers rebel fighters in the stricken city of Aleppo, British defence minister Michael Fallon said Thursday.
"We don't see a future for President Assad in Syria, there is no victory in bombing hospitals... and ending up in a country that you only control 40 percent of," Fallon told a press conference.
"On the contrary we continue to look for a political settlement in Syria that is genuinely pluralist," he added shortly after a meeting of key members of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
US defence chief Ashton Carter backed his British counterpart, saying: "Political transition is the only way that the suffering of the Syrian people can finally be brought to an end."
Carter accused Russia of supporting "incredible brutality" by backing Assad's assault on rebels in Aleppo.
"The standard of brutality employed... stands in stark contrast to the way we conduct ourselves in Iraq and Syria," he added.
US President-elect Donald Trump has so far struck a softer tone with Russia, but Carter insisted that President Vladimir Putin's actions in the war had not helped defeat IS.
"Our interests are our interests and where they align with Russia's interests we have worked with them," he explained.
"We are fighting ISIL.. and they are participating in the Syrian civil war in a brutal and unhelpful way, rather than doing what they are supposed to do," he added.
Fallon claimed that Russia was only "prolonging" the war by focusing on Aleppo, leaving the door open for IS in other areas such as Palmyra.
Despite the uncertainties surrounding Trump's strategy, Carter said he had "confidence in the future of the coalition campaign" as it was "logical and makes sense".
Their comments came as Assad congratulated Syrians on the "liberation" of Aleppo, as civilians and fighters evacuated the last rebel pocket of the northern city that was once Syria's economic hub.