Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura following talks, Moscow, November 4, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held a detailed exchange of views with the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria and his team on how to move towards implementing the agreements reached at the multilateral meeting in Vienna on October 30 this year.
Let me remind you that those in attendance at the Vienna meeting approved a document – a Joint Statement – which Mr Staffan de Mistura, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and I presented at a joint news conference. We were instructed to do this as the three co-chairmen of the Vienna-born process, which, as it was agreed, should be carried on. This document sets out clearly our approaches to a settlement of the Syrian crisis in all its aspects, including the immutability of the need to pool efforts in combating the terrorist threat, the urgency of launching a political process between the government and the opposition, and of course, the immediate steps to ease the humanitarian situation and suffering of the civilian population. The Joint Statement reflects all these points.
We agreed to meet in the same format in the near future, basically within the next two weeks. Two specific objectives have been identified that need to be addressed now. First, to develop a common understanding as to which groups are terrorists on Syrian territory. There are UN Security Council lists, but there are also new groups that have branched off of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Jabhat al-Nusra. The new groups are ostensibly unrelated but they are “fishing in troubled waters” by using terrorist methods. Everyone has agreed that it’s necessary to clarify this matter. Another issue that’s been identified as “homework” for the next few days (I hope this period will not last long) is clarifying what opposition is moderate and should become a partner at the negotiations that Mr Staffan de Mistura and his team have been preparing to reach a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Thus, it’s necessary to coordinate two lists. The first one is a list of terrorist organisations that will not be covered by ceasefire arrangements (hopefully, we’ll be able to declare a ceasefire at some stage). The second one is a list of the opposition delegation that will hold talks with the government under UN aegis with a coordinating role by the UN Envoy for Syria. We see these two areas of related work as the main factors in preparations for the next meeting in the “Vienna format.”
Russia has actively supported Mr Staffan de Mistura’s efforts. After last Friday’s meeting, he paid a number of visits in order to make progress in addressing these issues and lay the groundwork for an early start to an inter-Syrian dialogue. Russia has distributed among the participants in the “Vienna process” its specific proposals regarding terrorist organisations and those opposition figures whom we see as quite acceptable to all parties as members of a joint opposition delegation selected for participation in the political process.
Today we reaffirmed our total commitment to the Vienna document and to the document underpinning the efforts to achieve a political settlement. I am referring to the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, which details the goals to be pursued so as to enable the Syrian state to be fully restored as a sovereign, independent and democratic polity. The document also provides for implementing the necessary reforms on the basis, as it was specifically emphasised in the statement, of a mutual agreement between the government and the opposition. This is the key principle that was confirmed in Vienna, since the Vienna document states clearly that the political process must be conducted by the Syrians, who own this political process. It was also specially stressed that the Syrian people alone can decide Syria’s fate.
We wish Mr Staffan de Mistura success in his work and will support him in every way, as we confirmed today. I hope the other participants in the “Vienna process” will seek to do all they can for the mission of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria and his team to be crowned with success.
Question (addressed to Staffan de Mistura): As the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, you must know for certain that much of the Syrian public continue to support the current president, Bashar al-Assad. Don’t you think that the demand for his resignation nullifies the opinion of a large part of the Syrian population, who support Bashar al-Assad, particularly given that much is being said today in support of the Syrian people?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Staffan de Mistura): I’d like to second what Mr Staffan de Mistura has just said. This issue must be addressed by the Syrian people themselves. It’s up to the Syrians to decide the fate of any Syrian politician. The Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, states clearly that the government and the opposition must reach mutual agreement on all aspects of the political reform. The Joint Statement also says that it is the Syrian people that should decide the fate of their country. One can argue for a long time as to what part of the population supports the President and what part wants him to go. But the only way to check the fairness of these judgments is through the ballot box. This is what we want to come to.
Question: When and where are you planning to hold the first meeting between representatives of the SAR government and the opposition, as envisaged by the final Vienna document? Which of the parties has agreed to come to the meeting?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Staffan de Mistura): Let me join in what has just been said. Of course, for an inter-Syrian representative, inclusive and trustworthy dialogue to begin, the entire spectrum of Syrian society, including all opposition groups, should be represented at the negotiating table. I’d like to support what Mr Staffan de Mistura said. The outside players that influence to a decisive degree various opposition detachments must use all their influence to induce these detachments to come to the political talks with a constructive platform. Instead of trying to hog the blanket, they should form a joint delegation and, like the SAR government delegation, think about the fates of their country and their people, rather than someone’s personal fate.