State Department dismisses latest Assad 'rhetoric'

Story highlights

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared that the peace process in his country was dead
  • The State Department labeled his pledge that "bloodshed won't come to an end" as "vintage Assad"

Washington (CNN)The U.S. State Department is dismissing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's recent pledge that "bloodshed won't come to an end" in his country as unsurprising and "vintage Assad."

"He basically got up and said what he always says," Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday, "which is that he's going to never back down, never step aside, going to keep up the fight and never recognize the role that he has directly played in creating the conditions that exist today in Syria."
    Toner acknowledged the Syrian military's authority to go after the terror groups ISIS and Al Nusrah, but warned against targeting opposition groups involved in the oft-tested ceasefire.
    On Wednesday, Toner went further in defending the ceasefire, saying, "The very fact that we have a cessation of hostilities -- as imperfect as it is -- has saved lives."
    Toner added that Assad is "sadly mistaken if he thinks there's a military solution" to the crisis.
    Addressing a session of parliament Tuesday, Assad vowed to continue fighting "terrorism," and declared that the peace process to reach a political solution to the crisis was dead.
    "Our war against terrorism will continue," the embattled president said, "not because we like wars -- as it was they who waged wars against us -- but because the bloodshed won't come to an end until we root out terrorism wherever it is and regardless of whatever masks it wears on."
    Toner described the comments Tuesday as "a lot of rhetoric," while the Obama administration is not yet declaring an end to the peace process or the ceasefire.
    Toner said the U.S. still believes that Russia and Iran -- backers of the Assad regime -- "can at least appeal to those in the regime who still have influence on him to refrain from letting this political process, this cessation of hostilities, fall completely apart."
    Syria has been entangled in a violent civil war since 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protestors sparking broad unrest.
    United Nations-backed peace talks between the regime and moderate opposition groups have so far failed to stop the violence, which has led to the deaths of over 400,000 people, according to U.N. Envoy Staffan de Mistura.