Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, declared Thursday that the Trump administration does not consider it a priority that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad be removed from power.
"Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," Haley told a small group of journalists, according to Politico.
"Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done, who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria," she added. "We can't necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did.”
The comments echo a sentiment expressed earlier on Thursday by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was asked during a visit to Turkey whether Assad needs to go.
"I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," he replied, avoiding tougher language against Assad.
The comments mark a shift from President Barack Obama’s stance, noted Politico. Obama repeatedly called for Assad to step aside after the Arab leader's crackdown on protesters in the spring of 2011 evolved into a full-blown war.
Over time, the Syrian conflict has drawn in numerous armed groups, including terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State (ISIS), which managed to grab significant territory in Syria as well as Iraq.
While he called for Assad to go, Obama came under fire for his failure to take action over Syria’s use of chemical weapons, even after he said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the U.S.
Obama later said he did not regret his speech drawing the "red line" over Syria's use of chemical weapons despite failing to take action.
Towards the end of his presidency, Obama washed his hands of Syria, saying there was nothing Washington could have done to stop the war, short of a military takeover of Syria.