Arriving in Mideast, Biden Says There's No Military Solution in Syria

The American vice president arrived in the United Arab Emirates early Monday on a Middle East tour that will also take him to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) touring the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, March 7, 2016.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) touring the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, March 7, 2016.Credit: AFP

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in the United Arab Emirates early Monday, kicking off a Middle East trip that will also take him to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, told an UAE newspaper there can be no military solution to the civil war in Syria.

“That should be clear to everyone,” Biden told the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National in reference to the war in which rebel groups are seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

“So as hard as it is, we have to keep trying to reach a political settlement. We’re now working to get the Assad regime and the opposition back to the negotiating table, because ultimately, the end goal hasn’t changed. A political solution between the parties is the only way to end the violence and give the Syrian people the chance they deserve to rebuild their country, to create a credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian system — a new constitution and free and fair elections.”

Biden is not expected to offer any new initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he travels to Israel and the West Bank. The White House has said it does not believe either side has the political will for reviving the peace process as the last year of President Barack Obama's administration winds down.

Addressing the widespread instability in the Middle East as a whole, Biden told UAE's The National: "There are complex relationships, sectarian tensions and long-standing political differences. But these challenges are too big for any one nation to meet alone and without dialogue, we won’t make progress toward resolving the conflicts in Syria or Yemen or toward reducing the sectarian tensions that are tearing the region apart.”

Biden defended the nuclear agreement that Iran struck with the United States and other major world powers over the opposition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"As dangerous as Iran’s actions are, they would be exponentially greater if Iran possessed a nuclear weapon. Now that we are implementing the deal, we have effectively closed off every path that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon and the region is safer as a result,” he told The National.

Following his arrival in the United Arab Emirates, Biden vowed that the United States and its allies would destroy and "squeeze the heart" of the Islamic State group, while expressing gratitude to American airmen and Emirati troops. Biden spoke to hundreds of airmen as jets roared down the runway at Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, a main launching point for operations in Syria and Iraq targeting the Islamic State group.

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