Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with Syrian opposition, Moscow, January 27, 2017

From the Russian Foreign Ministry
January 27, 2017


I am delighted we have met again, only a few days after the Astana meeting, which we want to tell you about in more detail. We see the meeting in Astana as a big and fundamentally new step towards a settlement, because we now have with us the armed opposition groups, which did not participate in contacts with the Syrian Government before or in other events concerned with talks about Syria’s future. Second, an important conclusion has been reached in Astana – that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Third, the ceasefire agreement reached on December 29 has been reaffirmed and a trilateral body comprising representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran has been created to monitor compliance with the ceasefire and investigate ceasefire violations. And fourth, it has been stated clearly that the efforts taken in Astana towards a political settlement will contribute to the UN-sponsored intra-Syrian talks in Geneva in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

It is gratifying that the decision to hold a meeting in Astana, preparations for it and the meeting itself have boosted the activity of our colleagues at the UN, who have announced the resumption of the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, even though the talks have been put off from February 8 until the end of the month. We believe that the passivity of our UN colleagues, who have not held any rounds of the talks since April 2016, is unacceptable. If they continue to look up at the      fractious position from the so-called Riyadh Group, the settlement in Syria will be postponed to eternity. By the way, we invited the group’s representatives to Moscow. First they planned to come, but then they provided arguments why they need to deal with us independently rather than as part of all the progressive and patriotic Syrian opposition forces. The Riyadh Group advanced numerous preconditions for the talks, which is contrary to Resolution 2254. For example, they said that they cannot sit down at the negotiating table while the hostilities continue in Syria. The hostilities have ceased, a ceasefire has been announced, and they have no excuse for refusing to talk.

We hope that the UN will not procrastinate with the next round of the intra-Syrian talks. We also believe that it is time to stop moving in circles. It is time to focus on practical issues in compliance with the agenda outlined in Resolution 2254, including work on the constitution. There is much idle talk about the draft constitution that was circulated at the Astana meeting. I would like to clarify the matter again, hopefully, for the last time. The draft we presented was an attempt to bring together and identify the common elements in the ideas expressed by the Syrian Government and the opposition, including those who are present here, over the past few years when we maintained contact and tried to find a way out of the Syrian crisis.

Someone from the opposition delegation said the other day that the Syrians themselves must write their constitution and compared our draft to the constitution forced on Iraq by Paul Bremer, an American official who headed the occupation authority of Iraq. This is a misleading position, because the Iraqi constitution was forced on the people by the occupation authority as an ultimatum, while we have only offered our proposals to the Syrian parties without any intention of forcing them to adopt them. Based on the experience of the past five years, we are convinced that practical work can only begin if specific proposals are put on the table. I hope that all Syrians will read our draft while preparing for a meeting in Geneva and that it will provide an impetus for a practical discussion of ways to achieve accord in Syria in keeping with the Geneva Communique.

[RT quoted the Foreign Minister as saying this:

Lavrov went on to say that it would be “wrong” to compare the Iraqi constitution with the Syrian, because “in Iraq, it was about invaders who wrote the constitution and imposed it on the Iraqi people as an uncompromising text.”]


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