Fri Feb 26, 2016 1:36AM
(L-R) US Secretary of State John Kerry looks on as US President Barack Obama makes a statement after meeting with his National Security Council at the State Department, February 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(L-R) US Secretary of State John Kerry looks on as US President Barack Obama makes a statement after meeting with his National Security Council at the State Department, February 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

US President Barack Obama has once again renewed his call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying there is no alternative to his removal.

He also called on Russia and the Syrian government to honor a negotiated ceasefire in the war-torn country, warning Moscow and Damascus that the "world will be watching."

Obama made the remarks after holding a rare meeting with his national security team at the State Department on Thursday, a day before the cessation of hostilities was due to come into force.The ceasefire for Syria is set to take effect at midnight Friday local time.

He was flanked by Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other top advisers, who updated him on the years-old Syrian crisis.

(L-R) US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford stand alongside President Barack Obama as he makes a statement after meeting with his National Security Council at the State Department, February 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Obama said militants in Syria will never stop fighting until Assad is ousted from power.

"It's the only way to end the civil war and unite the Syrian people against terrorists," he claimed.

The cessation of hostilities was announced earlier this week after negotiations between Russia and the US, both of which have been engaged in airstrikes in the Arab country.

Obama said Assad should step down if a lasting peace is to be found in Syria.

"This is going to be a test of whether the parties are truly committed to negotiations," he said.

"It's clear that after years of his barbaric war against his own people -- including torture, and barrel bombs, and sieges, and starvation -- many Syrians will never stop fighting until Assad is out of power. There's no alternative to a managed transition away from Assad," he argued.

Obama said "the coming days will be critical" in finding whether there is a way to end the five-year-long deadly conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions more.

“None of us are under any illusions,” Obama said. “We’re all aware of the many potential pitfalls, and there are plenty of reasons for skepticism.”

"But history would judge us harshly if we did not do our part in at least trying to end this terrible conflict with diplomacy,” he added.

In an interview with Press TV on Thursday, American political analyst Daniel Patrick Welch said regime change has always remained America’s only objective in Syria.

Welch said Washington has never had such a thing as Plan B and the alternatives they are speaking of now have always been the primary objectives they have been following in Syria.

“This idea of Plan B is kind of a scam; it has always been Plan A to topple the legitimate government and replace it with something weaker and something more compliant be it a failed state, a puppet regime or this division into sectarian mini states, instead of the legitimate elected government,” he explained.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned that if the Syrian ceasefire deal that the US and Russia agreed to on Monday falters, Washington will resort to its Plan B options.