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U.S. and Russia Announce Plan for Peace in Syria (Transcript)
September 10, 2016

U.S. and Russia Announce Syria AgreementRemarks With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura at a Press Availability

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Geneva, Switzerland
September 9, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: So thank you all for tremendous patience during the course of a very long day which obviously has required a lot of detail work, and we appreciate everybody’s patience in hanging in there.

Today, the United States and Russia are announcing a plan which we hope will reduce violence, ease suffering, and resume movement towards a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria. And we believe that the plan as it is set forth – if implemented, if followed – has the ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change.

The suffering that we have witnessed in Syria over the course of more than five years now is really beyond inhumane. People have all seen the pictures – women, children tortured; barrel bombs, gas. And the world has been shocked on a constant basis by what we have witnessed. And we are – I say “we” – the Obama Administration, the United States is going the extra mile here because we believe that Russia and my colleague have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and to come to the table and make peace.

Working together, Russia and the United States and our teams have devised what we think is a more proscriptive and far-reaching approach than we have been able to put together to date. And if – and I again want to emphasize the “if” – if the plan is implemented in good faith, if the stakeholders do the things that are available to them to do and are being called on to do, this can be a moment where the multilateral efforts at the diplomatic table, the negotiations could take hold, and you could really provide the people of Syria with a transition.

Now, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I have had frequent conversations and face-to-face meetings, most recently in Moscow in July, here in Geneva two weeks ago, in Hangzhou this past weekend. And each time, we have worked together to try to build a consensus on the broad steps and then to develop specific ideas on how those steps could be implemented. As we have both stated several times, we did not publicly spell out these measures earlier because the details of how they would be carried out were crucial to be finalized and because each had an impact on the other. And we know that, especially in Syria, plans do not implement themselves.

So today, we are announcing an arrangement that we think has the capability of sticking but is dependent on people’s choices. And it has the ability to stick providing the regime and the opposition both meet their obligations, which we – and we expect other supporting countries – will strongly encourage them to do. Obviously, the Russians have an ability to be able to encourage Assad, and we have an ability together with other countries to encourage the opposition.

So what specifically have we agreed to?

First, we agreed on the steps through which the regime will come to a place where it will not fly combat missions anywhere where the opposition is present in an area that we have agreed on with very real specificity. Once this arrangement takes full effect, the regime would no longer be able to do in the future what it has been able to do so much in the past, which is go after Nusrah allegedly but hit moderate opposition and mask attacks against the legitimate opposition by claiming that it’s going after Nusrah.

Now, I want to emphasize: This step is absolutely essential. It is a bedrock of this agreement. And by all accounts, the Assad air attacks have been the main driver of civilian casualties and migration flows and the most frequent violations of the hostilities. Halting all of the regime’s military air activities in key areas, key areas that are defined – not all flights, because there are still Nusrah and ISIL, but that will be managed in a different way also. And that should put an end to the barrel bombs, an end to the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian neighborhoods, and it has the potential to change the nature of the conflict. Whether it does or not depends on compliance.

Second, the United States and Russia have agreed on steps which we will take, providing there is a sustained period of reduced violence. And after that sustained period of violence, we have agreed that we will then work together – providing both access and reduced violence have been provided for the period of time – we would then work together to develop military strikes against Nusrah.

Now, I want to be clear about one thing particularly on this, because I’ve seen reporting that somehow suggests otherwise: Going after Nusrah is not a concession to anybody. It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to target al-Qaida – to target al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which is Nusrah, an organization that is opposed to a peaceful transition, an organization that is an enemy of the legitimate opposition, an organization that is currently plotting attacks beyond Syria’s borders, including against the United States. So we must go after these terrorists – not indiscriminately, but in a strategic, precise, and judicious manner, so that they cannot continue to use the regime’s indiscriminate bombing in order to rally people to their hateful crimes. It is our belief that, in fact, Nusrah and ISIL have grown stronger because of the bombing. Now, some might disagree, but that is our belief.

Now, third, in Moscow we also said before we could move forward with the steps that we have identified, we would need seven days of adherence to the cessation of hostilities in order to convince the people of Syria and the opposition that the actions of the regime and its supporters will be consistent with the words that we put on paper. And I’ve talked to you previously about the words on paper not meaning anything unless the actions follow them up. Now, of course, the opposition will also be expected to adhere to the cessation of hostilities, and that is why today the United States and Russia together are calling on all sides to recommit to a nationwide cessation of hostilities and to honor its previous terms. This will be effective at sundown on September 12th.

Now, this – I might add also that is the beginning of the Eid holiday, and we can think of nothing more appropriate than for all the parties to come together and make Eid more meaningful to the people of Syria and the region. Now, this requires halting all attacks, including aerial bombardments and any attempts to gain additional territory at the expense of the parties to the cessation. It requires unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all of the besieged and the hard-to-reach areas, including Aleppo. And as we stand here, we know that Aleppo continues to be the besieged and bombarded city taken on by the regime and its allies. And if Aleppo is at peace, we believe that the prospects for a diplomatic solution will brighten; if Aleppo continues to be torn apart, the prospects for Syria and for its people are grim. Now, that is why this arrangement also requires forces from both sides to pull back from Castello Road – and we have agreed on that pullback. Castello Road is a major artery into Aleppo, and what this pullback will do is create a demilitarized zone around it, permitting as quickly as possible the resumption of humanitarian and civilian traffic along that road. And that will be achieved over a period of time by some monitoring, which is essential to the compliance.

Meanwhile, in the Ramouseh Gap area in southwest Aleppo, both pro-government and opposition groups will be required to provide safe, unhindered, and sustainable humanitarian, commercial, and civilian access to eastern and western Aleppo. Now, neither the opposition nor the government will be permitted to attack or to take territory held by the other, or, I might add, to obstruct the delivery of humanitarian goods.

Now, finally, beginning September 12th, we will then commence preparatory work for a Joint Implementation Center. And these preparations will include initial discussions and some sharing of information necessary for the delineation of territories controlled by Nusrah and opposition groups in the area of active hostilities. And then the more comprehensive process of delineation will be conducted by experts once the joint implementation group – the center, or so-called JIC – once the center is established. Now, once it is established after seven continuous days of adherence to the cessation of hostilities and increased humanitarian access, then U.S. and Russian experts will work together to defeat Daesh and Nusrah.

I want to emphasize these measures can only be implemented effectively if all the parties live up to their obligations. If groups within the legitimate opposition want to retain their legitimacy, they need to distance themselves in every way possible from Nusrah and Daesh. And we expect that Russia will ensure that the Syrian Government will adhere to all of its requirements about its air activities and about the access for humanitarian deliveries. No one is building this based on trust. It is based on a way of providing oversight and compliance through mutual interest and other things, and we are determined to explore every single avenue possible for progress.

If this arrangement holds, then we will see a significant reduction in violence across Syria. We’ll see humanitarian aid deliveries go forward in Aleppo and wherever the need is the greatest. And after a period of reduced violence, then we will see the United States and Russia taking coordinated steps to isolate and defeat the terrorist groups that have added immeasurably to Syria’s suffering and misery – and we will facilitate a political transition, which is the only way to bring about a durable end to this war.

In closing, I just want to emphasize that the crisis in Syria, obviously, is enormously complex and it is still, even as it’s complex, relatively simple at the same time. It’s complex for reasons that we all understand – the number of stakeholders with different agendas, the wounds that have been inflicted by years of fighting, the ideological and sectarian divides, the urban and suburban war zones, the brutality of extremists, and the unhelpful actions of some outside powers. But let me be clear: out of all of this complexity there is emerging now a simple choice between war and peace; between human agony and humanitarian relief; between the continued disintegration of an ancient society and the re-birth of a united and modern nation.

So I want to thank Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, whom we will hear from a little later, and the many governments in the Middle East and Europe and elsewhere who have been supportive, and especially the NGOs, the medical assistance organizations, and the religious and advocacy groups that have been working for years to aid victims and halt the fighting in Syria.

And today Sergey Lavrov and I, on behalf of our presidents and our countries, call on every Syrian stakeholder to support the plan that the United States and Russia have reached – to back its implementation in good faith – and to continue the hard work of bringing this catastrophic conflict to the quickest possible end through a political process. Our goal is to find the day when this kind of round-the-clock diplomacy isn’t necessary, frankly. And I want to thank Sergey Lavrov. He has been – he and his team today have been particularly patient as we work through a very long day to make sure that the Ts were crossed and the Is were dotted and the legal standards were met. And I’m grateful to him for the efforts that he has joined me in trying to help provide this opportunity. It is an opportunity, and not more than that, until it becomes a reality. And both of us are going to do everything we can to help it become that reality. Thank you.


FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand how you can feel at this time of night, but as John has said, we are grateful to you for your patience, we are grateful to each other for our patience and the patience of our delegations demonstrated by them. And we hope that it is – was not in vain.

We have concluded a huge piece of work which began on direct instructions from our presidents in February this year, and which was ongoing, has been ongoing, without impeding by – which was taken on by experts and by the ministers. As John said, we were in regular contacts, both over the telephone and personally. And as you remember, a year ago when it all began, our proposal to organize a coordination met quite a cool response from our American colleagues, who were ready only to engage in a de-confliction; that is, the mechanism and procedures allowing to avoid unexpectable incidents.

But as I said, this February the presidents in their conversation put forward an initiative to make additional efforts in order, first of all, to ensure sustainable cessation of hostilities. And after that, on this basis, a number of meetings took place which culminated today, this night, and this long work is justified and explained by many factors of difficulty which exist on the ground, and the puzzle which the Syria situation is, with a lot of stakeholders involved inside and outside Syria – all that, of course, did not help us, as well as the deep lack of confidence and trust between Russia and American partners in the Syrian matter particularly, but not only in it.

And now, I have to say, the – some mistrust remains and some – there are some people who would like our – today’s arrangement to be undermined. The recent example is, which we discussed with John Kerry, is an arrogant announcement on – of sanctions on the verge of the meeting of our presidents in China and another point and announcement of additional sanctions after our presidents met and before we met. But we are not offended easily. We are clearly stating our position, and we believe that the settlement of the Syrian crisis is not a topic which one can speculate on, unlike some.

We believe that it is the primary responsibility of the leading powers, first of all, Russia and the U.S. who are co-chairing the International Syrian Support Group, and it is our responsibility and obligation, together with our international partners inside the regime and outside the regime, to do everything to create the necessary conditions to settle this very difficult conflict. And despite all the problems that have arisen, despite all the mistrust that is still witnessed, despite their attempts to undermine our – today’s arrangements, we have managed to develop a package of documents, because the – today’s document is not the only one; there are five documents in total. It is a package of documents that allows to organize an efficient coordination in struggle against terrorism that allows to expand the humanitarian access to the population in need – first of all, in Aleppo mostly – and which allows to enhance the cessation of hostilities regime. And this all creates the conditions – necessary conditions for the resumption of the political process, which has been stalling for a lot of time.

And the main thing about these arrangements is that the first step would be the reconfirmation of the cessation of hostilities regime will do everything to – for the parties of the conflict influenced by the U.S. and Russia to take the necessary step and confirm and reconfirm their commitment to the cessation of hostilities – first for 48 hours, then it will be extended for another 48 hours – in order to achieve the permanent cessation of hostilities regime adherence.

After the regime is fully functional for seven continuous days, we, as John has said, are to create a Joint Implementation Center – JIC – where the military men and the special (inaudible) representatives from Russia and the U.S. will be engaged in practical – in solving practical matters of delimitation and separation of terrorists from the moderate opposition. And there will be strikes agreed against terrorists – the strikes of the airspace forces of Russia and the air forces of the U.S. We have agreed on the areas where such coordinated strikes would be taking place, and in those areas, on mutual agreement shared by the Russian – by the – sorry, by the Syrian Government as well, only the air forces of Russia and the U.S. will be functional. The Syrian air forces will be functional in other areas outside those that we have singled out for Russian-American military cooperation.

I’d like to highlight that the task of separating terrorists and moderate opposition and physical separation of them on the ground is enshrined in the document which we have agreed upon today as a key priority. Another topic is, of course, humanitarian assistance, and the document which we have agreed upon today, we – in this document, we have enshrined the mechanisms of humanitarian assistance delivery, commercial and civil cargo as well, in cooperation with the UN and the Red Crescent, mostly in Aleppo, in western and the eastern Aleppo.

We have also agreed upon the procedures of response on violations of the regime of cessation of hostilities. The Day D, as John has said, is the 12th of September. Since that moment, a number of steps will begin to be taken in the antiterrorist context and in the humanitarian assistance context and in enhancement of the cessation of hostilities as well.

John has mentioned that the most important thing is not the paper itself but how it is implemented in practice, how the agreements are fulfilled. We and the United States take the obligation to do all of our best to engage and make the stakeholders comply with the arrangements in our documents.

As I said, the Syrian Government has been informed by us about these arrangements, and it is ready to fulfill them. It supports the initiative on which we agreed with United States, so we will do everything which depends on us, but it is understandable that not everything depends on us. And some leaks in the mass media about which is the real views of the opponents of the regime from some groups that call themselves supreme committees, et cetera – there have been ultimatums, the refusals to cooperate, et cetera, as well as threats for humanitarian convoys that we have received from the opposition who are now in Aleppo – some of the groups.

I’d like to remind that humanitarian convoy was ready to be sent on 26 of August already when we met last time with John here. The UN was ready, the Syrian Government was ready, but the opposition said that any convoy that would be going along the Castello Road would be shot at. And this attitude is actually – lingers in them. So many groups need to be influenced, and this process has had a lot of situations when someone could just slip away from the commitments and looked for the explanations why it was impossible to fulfill these or those obligations. But today, I repeat, we have developed a significant and practical and concrete package of documents. And due to the reasons mentioned by John, we cannot make these documents public because they contain rather sensitive and serious information and we do not want this information to come to the hands of those who would be trying to undermine the implementation of measures dedicated to humanitarian access and other parts of our arrangements. But those documents are already entering in force efficiently – officially since the 12th of September, or the so-called Day D.

And I’m very glad that John said a very important thing. He said that the U.S. is firmly aimed to fight Nusrah and those who believe that the fighting with Nusrah is a concession to Russia are wrong. That is a very important constatation, or statement, because a lot of people supposed that the United States are really not very desirable to fight with Nusrah; they just keeping Nusrah as Plan B for overthrowing of the regime. So today’s statement of John is greatly welcomed by me.

And this is not the end of the road and the way; that is just the beginning of our new relations. And we hope that all those who dearly value peace and the integrity of the multinational and multi-confessional Syrian state will support our arrangements. We expect to have closest cooperation with our friends from the UN, Staffan de Mistura and his team, because we are convinced that since the beginning of implementation of these arrangements, there will be favorable conditions, as it has been said, to resume the inter-Syrian negotiations on the political settlement. And we will, of course, urgent promote Staffan de Mistura and his team to use this moment. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Sergey, thank you very much. I appreciate very much your underscoring that Russia has already talked to President Assad and he is prepared to live by these agreements, which is critical.

It’s my pleasure now – we’re going to just hear a word – he’s not going to take any questions, but we do want – as you’ve heard tonight, the UN is a critical partner – critical partner – in all of this. We’re very grateful for their many efforts with respect to Syria, and I’d like to introduce the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

MR DE MISTURA: Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s been a long day and good results, so I will read a statement which is representing the position of the UN, with your permission, rather than talking off the cuff.

The UN welcomes the understanding announced today by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and by Secretary of State John Kerry. This understanding regards reinstating the cessation of hostilities in Syria so that the parties can return to talks with humanitarian access being delivered and clear rules in place for the management of the cessation of hostilities again. We also welcome the fact that the Russian Federation and the United States of America are prepared indeed to work together to defeat Daesh and al-Nusrah. The United Nations hopes and believes that the political will that led to this understanding is sustained. It creates a real window of opportunity – a real window of opportunity – which all relevant actors in the region and beyond should seize to put the crisis in Syria on a different path and reduce the violence and the suffering of the Syrian people.

Let me be clear – you have been asking me for that; I am ready to say it: The United Nations stands ready to deliver and to do whatever it can to support an early restoration of the cessation of hostilities. It also expects that all parties will facilitate UN efforts to indeed deliver humanitarian assistance to the population in need, including in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, according to our plan of September which you heard today. The UN will continue to exert all efforts to that end. It is vital that the real change is felt on the ground by the Syrian people.

And lastly, the UN hopes that the implementation of this understanding will facilitate renewed efforts to reach a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led political settlement of the conflict, as called for in the Geneva communique, Security Council Resolution 2254. I will personally now proceed to New York in the coming days to consult with the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of the ministerial meeting that, as you know, will be taking place at the level of Security Council on the 21st of September, with a view to advancing this objective and discuss the date for the renewal of the next round of intra-Syrian talks.

So let me say thank you to both of you for allowing us to restart the work. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Both – yeah. I was just going to say Sergey and I both have flights that have been multiply delayed, so we’re just going to take one question, and we apologize.

MR KIRBY: First question tonight comes from Elise Labott from CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov. You talk about implementation as being the most important thing about this agreement. The entire ISSG, along with the Syrians and the opposition, agreed to a ceasefire in February. It was endorsed by the UN Security Council. How is this different? How can you make sure your respective allies in Syria and others who support them, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, are ready to respect the terms of any agreement that you adhere to?

And Secretary Kerry, we have to ask you about North Korea. For seven years, you’ve – the Administration has attempted the same policy of increasing sanctions and strategic patience with North Korea. The Security Council, including Russia, passed what you called the most biting sanctions ever, and North Korea has only increased its weapons program and provocative behavior. Why is it not time to try either a harder embargo or new negotiations on the terms North Korea is laying out? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Well, as far as the implementation of this arrangement is concerned, no one can give 100 percent guarantees, as I have said. There are a lot of stakeholders involved in this puzzle and there are quite opposite interests of a whole number of them, but the fact that we have managed to create the ISSG by the joint Russian-American efforts, and this group – in this group, all the countries influencing the situation are represented, including the Saudi Arabia and Iran mentioned by you. I believe this is a great achievement in itself.

Another thing that – is that the capabilities of these group – of this group must be used in a responsible and weighted manner, and the situation when we gather all the participants and receive just an emotional discussion should be avoided. Everything should be prepared in advance, prepared thoroughly and carefully, and the documents that we have approved today – I believe we will have to inform the ISSG and the UN Security Council on their essence and nature if we want to receive the support of these organizations. But there is no other way except organizing the inclusive dialogue. We have – we see no other way, and this inclusiveness must be extended to inter-Syrian talks and to the outside circle which is to be closely involved in assisting those talks.

And I would like to use this occasion to confirm that about the Korea and the situation on the Korean Peninsula, an official statement has been made by Russia expressing our non-acceptance of the actions that violate the resolutions of the UN Security Council, and we consider those actions as the neglect of the international law by Pyongyang. And we cannot allow that the line to undermine the nonproliferation regime which threatens the peace and security would not be noted and noticed.

On the other hand, you are right that the current situation shows that maybe diplomats should be more creative than just responding by sanctions, sanctions, and sanctions again on any aggravation of the situation. I’m convinced that by condemning those dangerous exploits of the Korean Government, we must refrain from steps that could lead to further escalation of tensions and put this region on the verge of, we may say, armed opposition.

We are for – well, as – in the similar situation as in – on the nuclear program of Iran and chemical demilitarization of Syria, there have been very creative approaches used by all the participants, including the U.S. and Russia. And I am convinced that here in the North Korea, besides the bat and – there is – and the stick, there is the opportunity to have a creative understanding of the situation and development of approaches that would allow to defuse tensions in the Korean Peninsula and in the Northeastern Asia as such.

We are working on that and we believe that the Six-Party Talks – it is too early to bury the Six-Party Talks. We should look for ways that would allow us to resume them. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: So the question was asked: What is different about this situation relative to the previously announced ceasefires? Obviously, we worked very, very hard to make sure we weren’t just repeating the same thing. That doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to succeed, but we’ve created an entirely different structure this time. What happened in the past is that, first of all, the Assad regime continued to fly and bomb, and bomb indiscriminately, and everybody knows the record of barrel bombs and hospitals and schools and children and so forth. And what happened was because of that continued bombing, those others who had signed up to the ceasefire felt compelled to fight to save their countrymen.

Number two, there was always a confusion with Nusrah versus a legitimate opposition group. And in some cases they became melded together – marbleized, as some people have used the term – so that the Assad regime could say, “We’re going after Nusrah,” but at the same time would be attacking those who had signed up for the cessation of hostilities. And that confusion lent itself to a complete ultimate fraying of the ceasefire structure.

And so the second thing – so you have the combination of the flights, the bombs, and the confusion with Nusrah. What we have just laid out to you, if it is implemented – and the implementation depends on the initial seven days of a genuine reduction in violence and calm that indicates seriousness of purpose. And when that has happened and the joint implementation group gets set up as a consequence of the increased humanitarian access and the reduction in violence, then we will be working together to be delineating and separating Nusrah and defining where they are, and working together using our knowledge and technology and assets to be able to do a more pinpoint/strategic set of operations to deal with Nusrah and/or ISIL.

So the warning we give to opposition groups who have up until now found it convenient to sort of work with them is it would not be wise to do so in the future. It’s wise to separate oneself. And indeed, that will be different. There is a deterrence in that. There is also a deterrence in Russia holding Assad accountable for his promise. And so this is a new equation, and we believe that this new equation offers an opportunity – again, not a certainty, an opportunity – for people to be able to find a peaceful solution because we don’t believe there is a military solution. And the current trend is simply creating more terrorists, more extremists, and destroying the country in the process.

So as I said earlier, folks, President Obama has gone the extra mile here in order to try to find a way, if possible, to end the carnage on the ground in Syria. And obviously I think it’s a courageous decision, I think it’s the right decision, and I hope likewise President Putin has made a decision to commit the resources of Russia to try to make sure the Assad regime lives up to its obligations and to work with us. So hopefully maybe this can turn some things around, and that’s what we’re working towards.

Now with respect to North Korea, we have made overtures after overture to the dictator of North Korea. We have made it very clear to him that we’re prepared to talk about peace, about peace on the peninsula, about food assistance, about normal relationship with the world, about a nonaggression pact – I mean a host of different ingredients – if he will simply acknowledge he is prepared to come to the table and talk about denuclearization and his responsibilities to the world – not to us, to the whole world.

He has refused to do that again and again. And yes indeed the last round of sanctions was the most biting sanctions to date. But as you recall, it took a number of years and a fair number of ratcheting up of sanctions to bring Iran to the table. Ultimately Iran came to the table and negotiated because they realized it was the responsible thing to do. And our hope is that ultimately we can get back to the talks. We’re prepared to go back right away. All Kim Jong-un has to do is say, “I’m prepared to talk about denuclearization.” But unfortunately he takes the exact opposite tack, recommits to his program, and against all United Nations Security Council resolutions, continues to explode, continues to shoot missiles, and continues to threaten and be provocative in the region. Which is why every country in the region, every neighbor of his in the region and outside of the region – near neighbors – are opposed to what he is doing. He stands alone and he invites even greater isolation.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) And the question from the Russian journalist live news channel.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good evening. I have a question to Mr. Kerry. As far as the launching of the political dialogue of opposition and Damascus is concerned, when today you have agreed on the difficult issues, Russia and the U.S., will Washington now be able to fulfill its commitments to influence the opposition and return it to the negotiations table?

SECRETARY KERRY: We’ve had – thank you for your question. We have had discussions with the opposition. The opposition has indicated they’re prepared, providing the regime proves that it is serious and there are the days of reduced violence to meet the standards that we have established. And if that happens and they’re given access for humanitarian goods, as we have been discussing here today, then I know Staffan de Mistura, who has had conversations with them, is prepared to issue an invitation at the appropriate time for them to be able to return.

I have had personal conversations with the foreign ministers of each of the stakeholder countries. They have all indicated a readiness and willingness to go back to the table and to encourage the opposition to go back to the table. And I spoke with Dr. Hijab by video conference from Washington just the other day. He was in London and I talked to my fellow foreign ministers who had gathered there, and they all agreed that this idea of this ceasefire, if it could be implemented, would be extremely helpful, very welcome, and they all committed to try to urge all of the interested parties to be back at the table for the first really serious negotiation since this concept has existed. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I’d just like to add a couple of words. The beginning of negotiations as soon as possible is not a matter that Russia and the U.S. can solve. That is the demand by the UN Security Council. Resolution 2254 says that the negotiations must be inclusive, with participation of all the sides in Syria, in particular the group – groups that were formed on the meetings in Moscow, Cairo, Riyadh, and other places. Thus all the mandate from the UN Security Council is quite clear, and of course the UN must implement this mandate by providing the inclusiveness of the inter-Syrian talks which we hope will resume in the nearest future in Geneva.

There are attempts by separate countries to engage in provocations and represent or show one of the groups as the only opposition group that represents the whole opposition ready to engage in negotiations. And there have been even attempts to legalize such a group by inviting it to the UN Secretariat. We have been witnessing such attitudes and we believe that they fully contradict the agreements achieved within the ISSG co-chaired by the U.S. and Russia and the agreements enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions.

The sponsors – countries – sponsors of these or those opposition groups should fully understand their responsibility not to pull the blanket over themselves and not to think about their own ambitions but think about the unity of the Syrian people and the Syrian state.