The White House on Monday said it "absolutely" stood by its Syria policy, after Republican lawmakers said that Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryClimate policies propel a growing dysfunction of Western democracies Kerry calls out countries that need to 'step up' on climate change Those on the front lines of climate change should be empowered to be central to its solution MORE argued for new approaches in a closed-door meeting.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House continues to believe a "negotiated political settlement" is the only option to ending the bloody civil war. He also flatly denied that Kerry had raised the possibility of arming and training opposition groups.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — both outspoken critics of the White House's Syria policy — suggested after the meeting that Kerry had soured on the administration's approach.
"He acknowledged that the chemical weapons is being slow-rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms, [and] we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy,” Graham said, according to The Washington Post.
The South Carolina lawmaker also said Kerry “openly talked about supporting and arming the rebels," Graham told The Daily Beast.
"He openly talked about forming a coalition against al Qaeda because it’s a direct threat," Graham said.
But Carney said that characterization was a "reflection of how Sen. McCain and Graham" felt about the situation.
"Our firm belief is this has to be resolved through a negotiated political settlement," he said.
In a statement to the Post, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki — who attended the meeting — also discounted the interpretation of the Republican lawmakers.
"This is a case of members projecting what they want to hear and not stating the accurate facts of what was discussed,” she said.
She said it was a “mischaracterization" to imply Kerry's opinion was different behind closed doors.
“No one in this administration thinks we’re doing enough until the humanitarian crisis has been solved and the civil war ended,” she said.