Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Ahmad Jarba, leader of the opposition Syria’s Tomorrow Movement, Moscow, December 27, 2017
I am glad to welcome you to Moscow again. We have observed a number of positive changes in Syria since our last meeting. A decisive blow has been dealt to ISIS, and even though individual militants who have fled from the battlefield are trying to regroup in Syria or escape to other countries, it is clear that the main fight is over.
Today, the main antiterrorist task is to rout Jabhat al-Nusra. The Russian-supported Syrian army and their allies are pressing al-Nusra hard, but they are putting up resistance because, among other things, they, as we know, receive external assistance. To quote President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the Russian Aerospace Forces will most actively support the Syrian army in the event of recurrences of terrorist activities. To this end, as you know, a decision has been approved (based on an intergovernmental agreement with Damascus) on the permanent bases of the Russian Armed Forces in Tartus and Khmeimim.
The successes in fighting ISIS as well as the successful functioning of the de-escalation zones created within the framework of the Astana Process make it possible to take on the political process in a more active and detailed manner. Based on the results of eight meetings in Astana, the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran, as you know, have put forward an initiative to convene the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. The date, January 29-30, has been set for it. We appreciate your active involvement in efforts to ensure the success of this event. We see that it enjoys broad support among the Syrians, primarily those living in their country, including the majority of tribal chiefs.
As you know, external opposition members have been invited to the Congress as well, including those who formed a delegation for talks with the Syrian Government in Geneva. Our goal is to create a maximally representative basis for launching a constitutional reform. Its terms should, of course, be coordinated by the Syrians themselves, who would thereby comply with the clause of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the need for dialogue between the Government and the entire spectrum of the opposition.
We are confident that just as the initiative to establish the Astana venue a year ago gave a shot in the arm to our UN colleagues, who, after a 10-month pause, began taking steps towards resuming the negotiations, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress will, without any doubt, help UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and his colleagues to initiate, at long last, a direct dialogue without preconditions in Geneva, primarily on such matters as the constitution and preparations for the elections.
We will be glad to hear your assessments from within the processes unfolding at the stages in the Syrian settlement. They are always useful for us.