Left: Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose palace in Damascus overlooks one of the “torture hospitals” that became a dumping ground for opponents of the regime. Right: “Caesar,” a Syrian defector, who smuggled out thousands of atrocity photographs implicating Assad’s minions in war crimes, appeared in disguise before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last summer. Left, Adenis/GAFF/laif/Redux; right, by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

US President Joe Biden’s administration said that it would “not normalize relations” with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while diplomats at the United Nations revealed that contacts were underway between members of the Security Council, including Russia, to give “new impetus” to a political solution that would end the war in Syria on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, a diplomat in New York said that the US contacts have focused on the efforts of UN Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, who will brief Council members early next week.

The diplomat said that Pedersen was likely to “request the backing of the five permanent members of the Security Council”, namely the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, which “have reiterated on more than one occasion their support for his efforts.”

In parallel, Western diplomats await the speech of the current president of the Security Council, permanent US Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, which is expected to focus on the UN-mediated political process, the increasingly urgent humanitarian aid and the Syrian government’s arsenal of chemical weapons and their use.

In a press briefing on Friday, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said that the Biden administration “continues to promote a political settlement to end the conflict” in Syria, adding that this effort was taking place in “close consultation with our allies, partners and Pedersen.”

“A political settlement, we believe, must address the factors that drive the violence, that drive the instability in Syria. We’ll use a variety of tools at our disposal to push for a sustainable end to the Syrian people’s suffering. We’ll continue to support the UN roles – the UN’s role in negotiating a political settlement in line with the relevant UN resolutions, including UNSCR 2254,” Price said during the press briefing in Washington.

He added: “We also seek to restore American leadership when it comes to humanitarian aid. As we know, Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe. The Syrian people have suffered for far too long. They have suffered under the brutal rule of Bashar al-Assad. We must do more, we know, to aid vulnerable Syrians, including many displaced within Syria as well as the refugees who have had to flee their homes.”

Asked about the need to change the Syrian regime’s “behavior, not leader”, Price replied: “[Assad] has done absolutely nothing to regain the legitimacy that he has lost through the brutal treatment of his own people. There is no question of the US normalizing relations with his government anytime soon. There is no question that we will stand, that we will seek to support the humanitarian plight of the Syrian people as we seek a political settlement that would end their suffering.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

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