Photo
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, right, arriving on Monday in Iraq, where he met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Credit Pool photo by Alex Brandon

GENEVA — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said Thursday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not remain in power, but that negotiations about the country’s future should continue while Mr. Assad was in charge.

“The United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters, adding, “The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about.”

The comments came after Mr. Tillerson met in Geneva with the United Nations special envoy on the Syrian crisis — the last stop on a weeklong visit to the Middle East and South Asia in which he dashed among capitals in the region, often spending only a few hours on the ground before getting back into his motorcade and heading to the next stop.

While he came home with no major accomplishments, the trip was also not interrupted by tweets from President Trump contradicting his efforts, as happened early this month with the secretary’s efforts on North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson’s visit on Tuesday to Pakistan was perhaps the most interesting of the trip, since Mr. Tillerson had just the week before heaped praise on India, Pakistan’s longtime rival, while bluntly insisting that Pakistan had to do more to fight terrorism.

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The Pakistanis nonetheless showered Mr. Tillerson with kindness. When they sat down for talks, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi gave an effusive statement for the gathered reporters that Pakistan was fighting terrorism more than any other country.

Just as Mr. Tillerson began to speak, Pakistani guards hustled the American reporters out of the room. And since Mr. Tillerson rarely speaks to reporters, the United States’ side of the conversation remained something of a mystery for days.

On Thursday, Mr. Tillerson said he had spent most of his time with the Pakistanis listening, since this was his first trip to the country. But he said the United States had made some specific demands that Pakistan deal with terrorists using its soil for attacks.

If the Pakistanis do not act, he said, the United States will. “That’s not a threat,” Mr. Tillerson said with a shrug. “It’s just a matter of fact.”

The United States has in recent days vastly increased drone strikes in Pakistan near the Afghan border, targeting members of the Haqqani network, among the most violent factions of the Taliban insurgency.

Mr. Tillerson followed his Pakistan stop with a visit to India, where he made a passionate plea for better ties. “The U.S. has had positive relations with India for 70 years,” he said, “but it’s never quite moved to the next level.”

One reason for that stagnation, he said, is that both sides have at various times found reasons to retreat from improvements. One symbol of those difficulties was the large Lenin statue in Nehru Park just a few blocks from Mr. Tillerson’s hotel — a reminder of India’s longstanding ties to Russia.

Signs of continuing differences between Washington and New Delhi were evident on Wednesday in a news conference between Mr. Tillerson and India’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj.

The United States has repeatedly asked India to close its embassy in North Korea to help isolate the North Korean government, a request that India has refused. And on Wednesday, Ms. Swaraj said the United States might still need ways to talk to North Korea, which the Indian Embassy could provide.

Asked on Thursday whether that explanation made sense, Mr. Tillerson said: “Could. It might.”

Continue reading the main story

GENEVA — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said Thursday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not remain in power, but that negotiations about the country’s future should continue while Mr. Assad was in charge.

“The United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters, adding, “The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about.”

The comments came after Mr. Tillerson met in Geneva with the United Nations special envoy on the Syrian crisis — the last stop on a weeklong visit to the Middle East and South Asia in which he dashed among capitals in the region, often spending only a few hours on the ground before getting back into his motorcade and heading to the next stop.

While he came home with no major accomplishments, the trip was also not interrupted by tweets from President Trump contradicting his efforts, as happened early this month with the secretary’s efforts on North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson’s visit on Tuesday to Pakistan was perhaps the most interesting of the trip, since Mr. Tillerson had just the week before heaped praise on India, Pakistan’s longtime rival, while bluntly insisting that Pakistan had to do more to fight terrorism.

The Pakistanis nonetheless showered Mr. Tillerson with kindness. When they sat down for talks, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi gave an effusive statement for the gathered reporters that Pakistan was fighting terrorism more than any other country.

Just as Mr. Tillerson began to speak, Pakistani guards hustled the American reporters out of the room. And since Mr. Tillerson rarely speaks to reporters, the United States’ side of the conversation remained something of a mystery for days.

On Thursday, Mr. Tillerson said he had spent most of his time with the Pakistanis listening, since this was his first trip to the country. But he said the United States had made some specific demands that Pakistan deal with terrorists using its soil for attacks.

If the Pakistanis do not act, he said, the United States will. “That’s not a threat,” Mr. Tillerson said with a shrug. “It’s just a matter of fact.”

The United States has in recent days vastly increased drone strikes in Pakistan near the Afghan border, targeting members of the Haqqani network, among the most violent factions of the Taliban insurgency.

Mr. Tillerson followed his Pakistan stop with a visit to India, where he made a passionate plea for better ties. “The U.S. has had positive relations with India for 70 years,” he said, “but it’s never quite moved to the next level.”

One reason for that stagnation, he said, is that both sides have at various times found reasons to retreat from improvements. One symbol of those difficulties was the large Lenin statue in Nehru Park just a few blocks from Mr. Tillerson’s hotel — a reminder of India’s longstanding ties to Russia.

Signs of continuing differences between Washington and New Delhi were evident on Wednesday in a news conference between Mr. Tillerson and India’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj.

The United States has repeatedly asked India to close its embassy in North Korea to help isolate the North Korean government, a request that India has refused. And on Wednesday, Ms. Swaraj said the United States might still need ways to talk to North Korea, which the Indian Embassy could provide.

Asked on Thursday whether that explanation made sense, Mr. Tillerson said: “Could. It might.”

Nytimes

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