Tillerson wants Russia to decide fate of Syria's Assad: report

Tillerson wants Russia to decide fate of Syria's Assad: report
© Keren Carrion

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly wants to let Russia decide the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Tillerson made the comments to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during a State Department meeting last week, Foreign Policy reported Monday.

Tillerson said the Trump administration will keep its focus on defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to three diplomatic sources familiar with the exchange.

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A State official said the U.S. continues to be "committed to the Geneva process" and is in support of a "credible political process that can resolve the question of Syria's future."

"Ultimately, this process, in our view, will lead to a resolution of Assad’s status," the official told Foreign Policy.

“The Syrian people should determine their country’s political future through a political process,” the official added.

Last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement the U.S. had "identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime" in Syria.

“As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price,” the White House said in the statement.

U.S. warships launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in early April in response to a chemical attack believed to be carried out by forces loyal to Assad.

Russia, one of Assad's few allies, last week said Moscow would respond to a U.S. "provocation" in Syria "proportionally and with dignity."

"They should not create excuses for more attacks against the Syrian army that is fighting terrorists," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, saying terrorist groups could try to draw the U.S. into a strike against Syria by pinning responsibility for attacks against civilians on Assad's military.