Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks during a joint news conference following talks with UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Moscow, April 20, 2018

Friday, 20 April 2018 05:49

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are glad to have an opportunity to hold another round of talks with Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria Staffan de Mistura and his team. We met here in Moscow not so long ago (in late March). Since then some quite serious events have taken place, so today we were meeting at a very complicated and tense moment in the development of the situation in and around Syria. I am referring, of course, to the aftermath of what happened on April 14, when the USA, Britain and France delivered missile and bomb strikes on many facilities in Syria. As we have said more than once, this was done under a totally fabricated pretext in violation of the bedrock principles of international law. This aggressive act brought many complications, including to the mandate of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. After the Sochi Congress, the summit of presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Ankara on April 4, 2018, we were very close to resuming a real intra-Syrian dialogue in Geneva, especially on the constitutional reform. So, on April 14, the three countries I mentioned hit not only some imagined chemical facilities, but the Geneva negotiations as well.

Today we stressed that there was no alternative to political and diplomatic ways of overcoming the current crisis on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the decisions of the Sochi Syrian National Dialogue Congress which sealed the commitment to the twelve key settlement principles. I should remind you that they were initially put forward by Mr de Mistura. They are based on respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.

We have spoken in detail about our joint efforts with Iran and Turkey as guarantors of the Astana format. Obviously, in spite of the April 14 aggression, all of us still insist on an early meeting of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva with the assistance of Mr de Mistura and in coordination with other guarantor countries. We believe that the process should be guided by and implemented by the Syrians themselves. It should be based on free expression of the will of the Syrian people and aimed at adopting a constitution, to be followed by a free UN-supervised election involving all eligible Syrians.

We are one with our UN friends in believing that there is no military solution to the Syrian problem. Obviously, any attempts to implement this scenario are fraught with the direst consequences both for Syria itself and for regional and international stability. In this connection, we have indicated our serious concern over the fact that the opposition represented by the “national coalition of Syrian revolutionary and opposition forces” have called on the USA, Britain and France to continue their aggressive actions and extend the military operation to the entire territory of Syria. This statement is absolutely unacceptable. We hope that those who have influence on and control this opposition group will draw the right conclusions and rein them in.

We paid particular attention to humanitarian affairs. The parts of Syria liberated from the terrorists are in the process of returning under the control of the central authorities and they need assistance. It is very important to launch large-scale restoration projects. The main problem is that some donors lose interest in rendering assistance as soon as they lose the opportunity to derive political or even military dividends from it. We said we hoped that the UN and its specialised agencies would not stand aside from the problems and difficulties faced by the Syrian people and would act in strict accordance with their mandate.

We would like the UN to have a more active presence wherever there is a need for restoring housing, infrastructure and economic facilities. As I have said, we are talking about the districts in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor that have been liberated from the terrorists and where refugees and internally displaced people are returning. In general, the issue of building up a UN presence in Syria merits attention, partly in terms of gathering authentic information. We cannot be happy with the situation where UN structures in their reports and public statements proceed from data drawn from other, non-UN sources in Syria. And these sources are very often the so-called “activists” and representatives of dubious NGOs financed by the states that are hostile to Damascus. As a result, a distorted and biased picture emerges.

We discussed all this frankly today. Like our UN colleagues, we want to see our common efforts to be freed from everything extraneous, from what we call geopolitical games, and concentrate on the core interests of the Syrian people in full accordance with Resolution 2254, which is the main mandate of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.     

I think we had a very useful conversation today. We have an understanding of how to overcome this complicated situation and we will stay in touch.

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