After nearly two years of fighting, the death toll in Syria has reached some 90,000 people, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.
“I had occasion … to speak this morning with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia. The first thing he mentioned to me was in his estimate perhaps as many as 90,000 people have been killed in Syria,” Kerry was quoted by AFP as saying.
The figure is well beyond that quoted by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, who said Tuesday the number of people killed in Syria’s civil war is probably approaching 70,000. She told the UN Security Council that there have probably been almost 10,000 new deaths in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, Kerry told reporters after meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the State Department that he hoped President Bashar Assad could be convinced to enter into a negotiated solution with the Syrian opposition that would end almost two years of bloody violence and move forward with true democratic reform.
“We need to address the question of President Assad’s calculation currently. I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception,” Kerry said, adding: “I’ve got a good sense of what I think we might propose.”
Kerry did not elaborate on the ideas and pointedly offered no guarantee of success, particularly since Assad has defied calls to step down and clung to power throughout the crisis that has grown increasingly desperate.
Kerry said his priority was to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“I can assure you my goal is to see us change his calculation, my goal is to see us have a negotiated outcome and minimize the violence,” he said. “It may not be possible. I am not going to stand here and tell you that’s automatic or easily achievable. There are a lot of forces that have been unleashed here over the course of the last months.”