U.S. allies said after a meeting Friday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson they were encouraged the United States would support a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
“All the participants want a political solution because a military solution alone won’t lead to peace in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in Bonn, where the G-20 summit is under way.
Tillerson met for the first time on the sidelines at the gathering with about a dozen Western and Arab countries as well as Turkey.
US Syria policy
Before the meeting, diplomats were seeking clarity on whether the new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump had changed its policy on Syria, particularly regarding the future of President Bashar al-Assad.
Under the previous administration of President Barack Obama, the U.S. insisted Assad had to go, putting the U.S. at odds with Russia – which supports the Syrian leader.
Trump has emphasized closer cooperation with Russia in combating Islamic State in Syria.
Russia, whose influence in the conflict has grown, hosted separate peace talks in Kazakhstan with Turkey, brokering a fragile six-week truce between Syria’s warring factions.
German Foreign Minister Gabriel said “like minded” nations agreed to increase pressure on Russia to support a political solution and reaffirmed there could be no alternative to United Nations-led talks. A new round of the talks involving the Syrian regime and rebel representatives has been scheduled for February 23 in Geneva.
Secretary of State Tillerson also met Friday with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the first time and urged China to help assert more control over North Korea after a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
North Korea nuclear threat
Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday in Bonn that Tillerson “highlighted the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and urged China to use all available tools to moderate North Korea’s destabilizing behavior.”
Wang told Tillerson that the U.S. and China have joint responsibilities to maintain global stability, according to a statement form China’s Foreign Ministry. Wang also said common interests between the two countries far outweigh their differences.
After meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson said the U.S. could collaborate with Russia if it honored its commitment to help end the crisis in Ukraine.
Tillerson is attending his first G-20 meeting, hosted by Foreign Minister Gabriel, who has been a vocal critic of some of Trump’s policies.
The G-20 countries account for about 85 percent of the world economy and two-thirds of the global population.
The Bonn meeting is a precursor to a G-20 summit scheduled for July in Hamburg in what may be the first time Trump meets Putin in person.