President Barack Obama said Syrian President Bashar Assad “has lost (his) legitimacy” and will have to “leave,” as the UN Security Council approved a resolution outlining a peace process for Syria involving talks by representatives of the Damascus government and the opposition, but said nothing on the critical issue of what role Assad will play.

“I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties to be able to move forward in a non-sectarian way. He has lost legitimacy,” Obama said.

The president said diplomats need to find a way to create a political transition that allows Assad’s allies like Russia and Iran to ensure “that their equities are respected” in Syria.

The UN resolution acknowledges that the peace process will not end the conflict because it bars “terrorist groups” operating in the country, including the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front, from participating in a cease-fire.

Obama has trod carefully around the subject, and though for years he has demanded Assad resign, no political transition has ever been agreed upon, and Russia’s move to defend Assad has complicated diplomatic efforts to find a way for Assad to give up power and resolve the country’s civil war.

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