The civil war in Syria could end with a diplomatic solution involving the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — but "the proud nations that claim to want peace … refuse to cooperate with one another," former Democratic President Jimmy Carter said Saturday.
"The needed concessions are not from the combatants in Syria," Carter, 91, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, said in an op-ed piece in The New York Times.
These include the United States abandoning its position that President Bashar al-Assad must be toppled by military force to end the civil war.
"The early American position was that the first step in resolving the dispute had to be the removal of Mr. Assad from office," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said. "Those who knew him saw this as a fruitless demand, but it has been maintained for more than four years.
"In effect, our prerequisite for peace efforts has been an impossibility," he said.
Carter, co-founder of the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta, said that Assad "erroneously" decided to use military force to "stamp … out" the "radical" Sunni Muslims who first challenged his regime in 2011 — but that "the prospect for his overthrow was remote."
Now that so many factions are involved in the war, Carter urged the five-nation solution that Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested after a meeting of global leaders in May.
Putin "believed that all factions in Syria, except the Islamic State, would accept almost any plan endorsed strongly by these five, with Iran and Russia supporting Mr. Assad and the other three backing the opposition," Carter said.
But the Obama administration has clung to its opinion of taking out Assad by force — and the Syrian strongman will not accept that.
"He will not end the war by accepting concessions imposed by the West, but is likely to do so if urged by his allies," Carter said.
"Mr. Assad’s governing authority could then be ended in an orderly process, an acceptable government established in Syria, and a concerted effort could then be made to stamp out the threat of the Islamic State."
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