Andrew Strauss says he can give no guarantees that Kevin Pietersen will return as an England player.
Pietersen has apologised to his international team-mates after admitting in an England and Wales Cricket Board statement that he had 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 to 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.
"I would like Kevin to play for England again but only if we resolve the issues we need to resolve.
"I personally think it's not a process that can be finished overnight.
"I feel a little bit let down by Kevin, if I'm honest. But this isn't an issue between me and Kevin. It's a broader issue than that and it's very important that I act in the best interests of England cricket team.
"It's not a personal thing. I've always got on very well with Kevin, which is why some of the stuff has been quite surprising to me."
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 said.
"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."
Pietersen's international future has been up in the air following his now much-chronicled outburst after the conclusion of the drawn second Test at Headingley.
He rescued England with a breathtaking innings of 149, which earned him the man-of-the-match award, before hinting at dressing room unrest and speculating the final Test at Lord's could be his last.
Since then Pietersen, who retired from the limited overs forms of the game earlier in the summer, made a dramatic U-turn by making himself available for all three formats on the eve of the third Test squad announcement.
He was left out, however, with the text messages he had sent to some members of the South Africa team the final sticking point.
However, the England captain revealed he has been in contact with Pietersen over a number of points this week and insists that the text message saga is just one issue.
"It's a broader issue than just the text messages," Strauss said.
"It's not between me and him, particularly. The text messages sound like I was involved in it but it's a broader issue.
"It's about the team and Kevin and how we interact with each other.
"I spoke to him over the course of the last week over a number of issues.
"I don't think it's been a great week for English cricket and that annoys me, quite frankly, because part of my job is to paint English cricket in a good light so I feel frustrated by that.
"But out of everything, good can come out of it. It's important that whatever the resolution of this issue is, English cricket comes out of it better than it is at the moment."
Strauss, who is set to compete in his 100th Test, is now keen to put the matter to bed for the next week so England can focus on the task of beating South Africa in order to maintain their position at the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
"It's very important that I concentrate on what my job is which is leading the guys out there on the field," he added.
"I wasn't involved in Kevin Pietersen's dispute with the board in any real way but once the players got involved it was very important that I got involved for the very reason the feelings in the dressing room, the way the players interact with each other, the values that we have as a group are of vital importance to me and I'm not willing to turn a blind eye to that."