BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians Monday slammed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion over the weekend that Washington would have to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar Assad about a political transition in Syria.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt criticized the shift in U.S. policy.
“I have never bet on the Americans to change the regime in Syria,” Jumblatt wrote in his weekly column for Al-Anbaa newspaper. “On the contrary, I advised all those who bet on the [U.S.] to stop.”
Jumblatt, who described Syria under the rule of Bashar Assad and his father Hafez before him as a “large Arab prison,” said that Kerry was “defending that same jail.”
Kerry told CBS news in an interview Sunday that the U.S. was exploring ways to pressure the Syrian president to agree to hold talks. He said that the U.S. and other countries were also looking for avenues to revive diplomatic ties to end the conflict in Syria.
This apparent shift in policy means that Assad’s participation is required to find a solution to the Syrian conflict, an option that has never before been on the table.
Kerry’s comments came on the fourth anniversary of the Syrian war.
Jumblatt added that “America doesn’t care about the interests of [free] peoples,” but is concerned exclusively with its own national interests. Jumblatt said Kerry’s remarks undermined “the sacrifices of millions of Syrians, who were either killed or displaced.”
Jumblatt, a vocal critic of the Syrian regime, said Sunday that Kerry’s comments had left him speechless.
Future MP Jamal Jarrah echoed Jumblatt’s comments. Speaking to the Voice of Lebanon, Jarrah said that U.S policy toward Syria has always been vague.
“The American position toward Syria was never decisive, whether it concerned toppling the regime or supporting the opposition,” Jarrah said.
Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea tweeted Monday saying, “Mr. Kerry, don’t beat a dead horse,” while Future Movement MP Mohammad Kabbara feared Kerry’s comments could suggest a conspiracy being hatched.
Kabbara warned in a statement released Monday that “America might be in the process of selling Syria to Iran,” implying that it has something to do with Iran-U.S. talks over Tehran’s nuclear arsenal.
“We weren’t surprised by what Kerry said; we were expecting it and warning of it since the revolution in Syria began,” he said, adding that he hoped a “second Nakba” wasn’t on the horizon.