Move reflects U.S. frustration and growing concern.
BEIJING – Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that President Obama had asked aides for new policy options to deal with the situation in Syria.
Kerry said that none of the policy options had yet been presented to the White House for a decision.
“He has asked all of us to think about various options that may or may not exist,” Kerry said at a news conference during a visit here.
“The answer to the question ‘have they been presented?’ No, they have not,” he said. “That evaluation, by necessity, given the circumstances, is taking place at this time. And when these options are ripe and when the president calls for it, there will undoubtedly be some discussion about them.”
Kerry’s comments reflect increased concern within the U.S. government and nongovernmental organizations over the escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria.
They also reflect frustration that President Bashar Assad of Syria appears to have little interest in negotiating the establishment of a transitional government in which he would not play a role.
The U.S. has repeatedly asserted that the negotiation of such a transitional body is the main purpose of the peace talks underway in Geneva. Assad’s negotiators in Geneva have sought to focus on ways to combat what they call terrorism, a blanket description for armed opposition to him.
Kerry said that the number of refugees who had fled Syria had increased by 50 percent since October, when the United Nations Security Council issued a nonbinding request that all sides in the conflict facilitate the delivery of food and medicine.
The number of Syrians who have been displaced within their own country increased by 33 percent over the same period, he said.
“It is clear that the crisis of Syria is growing, not diminishing,” Kerry said. “It has gotten worse, dramatically worse.”
In an oblique criticism of Russia, Kerry said the Security Council’s inability to take stronger action than the issuing of the nonbinding request reflected “the opposition of certain countries.”
In recent weeks, Britain and other nations have pressed for a new Security Council resolution that would demand that the Assad government allow besieged communities to have access to international humanitarian aid.
But that effort has run into opposition from Russia.
Kerry did not say what options might be under consideration within the Obama administration or whether they included stepping up the covert CIA program to train and arm the moderate Syrian opposition or even the threat of military force to compel the delivery of aid.
In an impassioned description of the Syria crisis, Kerry said the Syrians had become “victims” of the barrel bombs that had been dropped by the Assad government’s forces and were suffering from blockades those forces had imposed on the delivery of food and medicine, which have left more than 200,000 Syrians cut off from assistance.
“This is grotesque,” Kerry said, “and the world needs to take note and figure out what the appropriate response is.”