Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a media question at a joint news conference of BRICS foreign ministers, Beijing, June 19, 2017
Question: Terrorism is one of the main challenges facing the international community. Could the BRICS nations consolidate their efforts in Syria? Could a mechanism be created so that BRICS representatives monitor the ceasefire, including in those areas where this is being established? Yesterday, the United States assumed control of the al-Tanf border crossing in southern Syria. Could the strengthening of the US role without coordination with the Syrian government complicate the efforts toward a settlement?
Sergey Lavrov: The BRICS countries are at one on the necessity of enhancing the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts. We have a Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, which has held two meetings and has a considerable potential. These efforts should be taken in an interdepartmental format. We have common views on the need to involve foreign policy departments and the concerned counterterrorism agencies, prevent terrorist attacks and exchange related information.
Of course, it takes more than our five countries to rout global terrorism, and the BRICS countries agree on the necessity of broader international efforts. I would like to remind you about President Putin’s initiative of a broad counterterrorism front, which is still vital. I hope that the recent UN General Assembly decisions based on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ proposal for a new office for counterterrorism will give momentum to our movement towards this goal. Russia will actively contribute to this.
As for a settlement in Syria, the BRICS countries stand for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We are grateful to our colleagues and friends for the high appreciation they have expressed today for the efforts taken by Russia, including jointly with Turkey and Iran, in the framework of the Astana process. The next meeting in Astana will be held on 10 July. It will be attended by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. The sides involved have agreed to complete the coordination of the parameters and modalities of the regime in the de-escalation zones and around them at the upcoming meeting. When this initiative was advanced at the previous Astana meeting on May 4, the related memorandum said that Russia, Turkey and Iran as guarantors would welcome any contribution from other parties, even those that are not involved in the Astana process. As I said, when we know the parameters, we will be ready to consider proposals from other countries that are willing to contribute to the implementation of this initiative.
As for the developments on the ground in Syria, we believe that respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be ensured in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and other UN documents. Any actions on the ground, where many sides are deployed, including those who are involved in the hostilities, must be coordinated with the Syrian government. This is what Russia, Turkey and Iran are doing in Astana. We coordinate all our initiatives and proposals with the Syrian government. We believe that this is how everyone should act, especially when the issue concerns control of any area in Syria and when such actions may raise questions about their real goals.
We urge the United States and all other countries that have military forces or advisers on the ground in Syria to coordinate their actions. De-escalation zones are a possible form of moving forward together. We urge everyone to avoid acting unilaterally, to respect the sovereignty of Syria – as I have said – and to join the common efforts that are coordinated with the Syrian government.