The United States reportedly wants Russia to influence the future leadership of Syria as Damascus regains full control of the Middle Eastern Arab state.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson relayed this message to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, according to Foreign Policy magazine.
During a private meeting last week, Tillerson told Guterres that President Bashar al-Assad's future now lies in the hands of Moscow, the report said Monday.
“What happens to Assad is Russia’s issue, not the US government’s,” Tillerson told the UN chief in the private meeting, according to sources close to the magazine.
Nearly three months ago, the secretary of state had insisted that Assad must go because of his alleged use of chemical weapons.
But Tillerson’s latest assurances to Guterres signaled the Trump administration’s new understanding that it was up to Moscow to decide on the issue due to geopolitical links between Russia and Syria and Moscow's support to Assad.
He also signaled that US military attacks on Syrian government forces in recent months were of tactical nature and not meant to weaken the government or strengthen the opposition forces.
Tillerson’s remarks are considered to be harbingers of the Syrian government's imminent victory against foreign-backed militants in the devastating six-year-long conflict.
Political observers assess the top diplomat’s remarks as a compromise on behalf of the Trump administration.
Syrians to decide
“The Syrian people should determine their country’s political future through a political process,” said a US State Department official asked by Foreign Policy to comment on Tillerson’s remarks to Guterres.
Tillerson had announced earlier this year that Assad’s future “will be decided by the Syrian people.”
Tillerson’s recent remarks announcing the decision to let Russia decide Assad’s future comes on the eve of President Donald Trump’s first face-to-face meeting next week with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Germany.
Tillerson said earlier this month that Trump had tasked him with repairing the broken US-Russia relationship.
The US Congress slapped sanctions against Russia for its alleged role in the US presidential election which ended with Trump at the helm.