Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose country has supported the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, said Wednesday that politics, not fighting, will bring the civil war there to an end.
“What is of utmost importance is to understand that Syria doesn’t have a military solution,” Rouhani told NBC News’ Chuck Todd. “And the Syrians’ problems must certainly be resolved politically. Only politically.”
Fighting has devastated the country, with more than 400,000 people estimated to have been killed since 2011 and 11 million more displaced.
Rouhani stopped short of saying Assad should remain in power. Instead, he stressed that Syria’s boundaries and territory remain unchanged, and that the country’s leadership be decided by voters.
Syria is technically a democracy, although Assad has faced only token political competition. He won re-election two years ago as the civil war raged, a landslide win amid voting restricted to government-held territories.
“The rule of the ballot box and the rule of the Syrian people and the will of the Syrian people should be the sole determinant of the future of the country,” Rouhani said.