VIENNA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The U.N. envoy for Syria said on Friday that President Bashar al-Assad must be part of the solution for easing violence in Syria, and he would continue discussions with him after talks in Damascus earlier this week.
The envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is struggling to advance a proposal that would freeze fighting in the northern city of Aleppo - one of the subjects he has said he had discussed with Assad.
In Vienna for talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, de Mistura said the government still controlled a large part of Syria, and that Assad was "part of the solution for the reduction of the violence," clarifying an earlier remark at a news conference that Assad was part of "the solution."
The United States is among Western powers that say Assad's violent response to what began as a peaceful pro-democracy movement has disqualified him to lead Syria, although Washington is at the same time leading a coalition of countries bombing the Islamist militants who now dominate the rebellion against Assad.
"I am not talking about a final solution," de Mistura told Reuters by phone. "That is something that only the Syrians, if you had asked me, would have to decide upon. The main point was he is part of the solution in reducing violence."
Earlier, speaking at a news conference with Kurz, he had said: "There is a large part of Syria which is under the control of the Syrian government and I will continue having very important discussions with him because he is part also of the solution."
About to enter its fifth year, the Syrian conflict has killed some 200,000 people. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)