Asked if he didn't think Assad had motivation to carry out such an attack, Kmoníček said he sees lots of motivation on the part of others. That's about as close as a diplomat of an EU/Nato country can get to saying that Assad might have been framed by a rogue group that wanted to reverse Trump's policy of tolerance toward the Syrian leader.

Source: http://www.fsfinalword.com/?page=archive&show=1&day=2017-04-10

I am not able to fully understand the passage in bold. I pressume that the author tells that Kmoníček's speculations are on the edge of diplomatic good manners but I am not able to understand the very phrase.


Diplomats are constrained by their governments and must use great care in their choice of words. They may not speak their own opinions in public as representatives of their governments. So, That's about as close as simply means the diplomat cannot speak freely and must stay within boundaries -- this is a straightforward/ clear as the diplomat is permitted to speak on the issue.

Another example: He came in second in the 400 meters (race). He was 'as close as' .05 seconds away from the win.

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The phrase in question is close to ... saying.

The literal meaning of "close to {something}" is "physically near" it.

The figurative meaning of "close to {saying something}" is to say something which is nearly or almost saying it outright, but not quite.

For example, if I say that you are not portraying something as honestly as it could be portrayed, I'm close to saying that you are dealing in untruths.

Here, what the speaker is close to saying is that a rogue group was responsible for the attack, falsely attributing the attack to Assad because it was in their interest to change the Trump administration's policy of tolerance towards Assad.

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