Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement for the media on the results of Russia-Turkey negotiations on Syria in the interdepartmental format, Moscow, December 29, 2018
We held a very useful meeting of our interdepartmental team of foreign ministers, defence ministers and heads of intelligence services. Developing the agreements reached by our presidents, we reviewed further steps on implementing the tasks set forth in the Astana format, primarily in countering terrorism, resolving humanitarian issues and creating conditions for the return of refugees.
We paid special attention to the new circumstances that have emerged after the US-announced withdrawal of its military from Syria. Today, an understanding was reached on how military representatives of Russia and Turkey will continue coordinating their steps “on the ground” under new conditions with a view to the ultimate eradication of the terrorist threat in the Syrian Arab Republic. Both sides emphasised that all this work will be carried out in strict conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, including unconditional respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Second, the parties mapped out specific measures on invigorating our joint work aimed at creating conditions that will allow more refugees to return home.
Third, the parties discussed the political process that was launched by the guarantors of the Astana platform and that received fresh impetus after the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi last January. It was noted that, with the participation of their Iranian colleagues, Russia and Turkey did everything they committed to do as regards the formation of the Constitutional Committee that is to begin working in Geneva. This was achieved through the active mediation of our countries between the Syrian government and the opposition.
We will continue actively facilitating the start of the Committee’s work as soon as possible, now with Geir O. Pedersen, new UN Special Envoy for Syria. He will assume office in the first ten days of January. We are hoping that all parties, including our Western colleagues who so persistently urged the Astana Three to complete its work on the formation of the Constitutional Committee in the past few months, will not obstruct our further efforts.
I would like to thank my colleague and friend and all our Turkish friends once again for our joint work and particularly for the conversation that we had today and that allows us to enter the New Year with more optimism regarding the Syrian settlement.