Andrew Strauss admits he can give no guarantees that Kevin Pietersen will return as an England player.
Pietersen has apologised to his international team-mates after admitting he sent 'provocative' text messages to members of the South African team.
The 32-year-old has been dropped from the Third Investec Test due to his initial silence on the matter and Strauss believes there are still many discussions that will have to take place to determine whether Pietersen has an international future.
"Who knows what's going to happen in the future? It's a bit of a process that we all have to go through," Strauss said.
"I'm not willing to state one way or another whether it's going to be possible or impossible on that matter."
Strauss welcomed Pietersen's admission of guilt and his subsequent apology but has been dismayed the 'trust and mutual respect' within England's dressing room has been disrupted.
"It's a first step. But there's a lot more to investigate in all of this," the left-hander added. "If there is a way forward the issues regarding trust and mutual respect have to be dealt with and it's not just a one-way process and we need to deal with those behind closed doors.
"The England cricket team has been in the news for the wrong reasons and we all want to move forward but there's some issues regarding trust and mutual respect that don't get dealt with overnight.
"My personal point of view is that I prefer those issues to be dealt with in private, away from the media and that's certainly the way I'll be approaching it going forward."