Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during trilateral talks with Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif and Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu as part of a meeting of the guarantor states of the Astana process, Astana, March 1

Friday, 16 March 2018 10:47

Mr Abdrakhmanov,

In the first place, let me thank the leaders of the Republic of Kazakhstan, your country’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev and you personally, as the Chairperson of this meeting, for the hospitality and support that Kazakhstan has accorded and continues to accord ever since the Astana format was launched. I am sure that these feelings are shared by my colleagues and friends, the ministers of foreign affairs of Iran and Turkey Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu.

During the time that we have worked here, Astana has confirmed its role as one of the main capitals in the heart of Eurasia, where tradition and modernity, the East and the West harmoniously intertwine. With the start of the Astana process, the city has become a crucial platform for decision-making on a Syrian settlement, one of the most acute international problems. To speak in a lofty style, when the name of the capital of Kazakhstan is heard in the media, millions of Syrians look to Astana with hope.

The Astana format, which was set up by Russia, Iran and Turkey a year ago, has proved its significance and become synonymous with progress along the path of normalising the situation in Syria and the promotion of a political and diplomatic solution. I will not enumerate all the concrete positive shifts in the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, which became possible thanks, above all, to the initiatives coordinated here, in Astana. I will only say that the de-escalation zones are really working, that the principles of humanitarian mine clearance have been worked out and that a working group has been formed to liberate the detained hostages and it held its first and very productive meeting here yesterday. Without doubt, our efforts have greatly facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid and paved the way for the resumption of a fully-fledged political process on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. This was very clearly expressed in the Final Statement of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, an unprecedented conference that we convened in Sochi, with representatives from all the main ethnic and religious groups of the Syrian society.

It is worth mentioning that not everyone is satisfied with the progress made through our efforts and based on full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. Our efforts and the things we are seeking to achieve in Astana are not welcomed by those who, in breach of all international norms and in gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, have evidently embarked on a path towards division and regime change in Syria with the aim of splitting this very important Middle Eastern country into small principalities controlled by outside players. I am convinced that we are on the right side of history and definitely on the right side of international law. Along with the ongoing fight against terrorism, we will keep moving forward in all the areas identified as priorities in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and reflected in the documents of the Astana talks and the Sochi Congress. I hope that the US-led international coalitions will eventually realise that instead of exonerating terrorists, as is now happening in Eastern Ghouta, it is necessary to wage a principled, consistent, uncompromising struggle against terrorist organisations, including Jabhat al-Nusra, no matter what it mimics or what new names it takes. One of the main problems in this connection (something we discussed with our American colleagues from as far back as ex-President Barack Obama’s administration) is the need to separate the right, constructive armed opposition from terrorists, above all Jabhat al-Nusra, against which the American coalition is still refusing to take action, despite the fact that the UN Security Council’s resolution qualifies it as a terrorist group.

I will not elaborate on our further work. This is an internal matter. We will tell the media about what has been agreed today. At this stage, let me once again thank our Kazakh hosts and friends and express confidence that the Astana process will continue to succeed in providing effective assistance to the Syrian settlement in full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.

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