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Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at UNSC R.E. Situation In ME/Syria

21 September 201620:10

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the UN Security Council High-Level Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East and North Africa, New York, September 21, 2016

Distinguished Secretary-General,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The region of the Middle East and North Africa is clearly experiencing a period of serious upheavals linked to the aggravation of interethnic and interfaith antagonisms and an unprecedented surge of terrorism and extremism. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria are on fire. There is trouble in a number of other countries, including on the African continent. Any further deterioration of the situation is a grave threat to international stability and security. It has been repeatedly noted that this state of affairs is the direct consequence of a terrible practice of geopolitical engineering, interference in internal affairs of sovereign states, and attempts to change undesirable regimes, including by force.

The situation in Syria is justifiably evoking special concern. From the very beginning of the Syrian crisis, Russia has invariably advocated its strictly peaceful solution respecting the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of that ancient country. As before, we are confident that there is no alternative to a political process based on a mutually respectful and inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue without preconditions, accompanied by a parallel effort to ensure cessation of hostilities, expand humanitarian access, and increase the effectiveness of combating terrorism. It is this comprehensive stance that has been enshrined in resolutions approved by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and in UN Security Council resolutions, primarily Resolution 2254. To implement requirements contained therein, Russia and the United States as the ISSG co-chairs worked for over six months to coordinate concrete agreements, a process that was completed on September 9, three days after the meeting in China between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama, who finally coordinated the last points of principle that needed to be brought up to the mark. I apologise for referring to documents which practically no one in this room has seen. Russia is still ready to make them public and to circulate them within the United Nations.

Last week, through the rapid response centre that we established with our US partners in Geneva, we notified our American colleagues about 300 ceasefire violations by Ahrar al-Sham and a number of other opposition groups, including those whose names were on the list of organisations that have purportedly joined the ceasefire, which was transferred to us. There were violations in Aleppo, in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Daraa provinces, and in the Damascus suburbs. I would like to underscore that this information is reliable and not based on internet or media reports but information obtained on the ground by Russian military monitoring groups. Consequently, this information is backed up by concrete facts. Violations include shooting attacks with light weapons, mortars and improvised multiple rocket launchers.

Coalition strikes on government troops positions at Deir ez-Zor on September 16 is a blatant violation of the cessation of hostilities regime. Furthermore, right after those strikes, ISIS forces attacked government troops. On September 19, there was another unacceptable provocation. I am referring to the bombing of a UN humanitarian convoy near Aleppo on a territory controlled by the armed opposition. Incidentally, it should be noted that on the same day, September 19, in the same area known as the Ramus road, Jabhat al-Nusra and allied detachments mounted a fierce attack on government forces. As a result, the jihadists advanced to Neighbourhood 1070.

I am not trying to make any accusations. However, I am convinced that such coincidences call for serious analysis and investigation. We insist on the most thorough and impartial probe into the attack against the humanitarian convoy. There are many indications that it could have been a rocket or artillery attack. Initially that was how it was reported. Then they started mentioning helicopters and then aircraft. Therefore it is probably necessary to refrain from emotional responses and to not immediately grab the microphone and make comments, but conduct a thorough and professional investigation.

It is also noteworthy that the distance between the site of the incident and the epicentre of the battle in western Aleppo, where Jabhat al-Nusra is active, does not exceed five to seven kilometres. Russia has provided all the data in its possession related to the attack against this convoy, including real-time video footage. Despite our calls regarding the need to influence the armed opposition and corresponding groups, as recorded in UN Security Council decisions, so far, very little result has been achieved in this sphere.

I mentioned the list that our US partners handed over to us, which lists about 150 organisations as participants of the cessation of hostilities regime. However, immediately after September 12, over 20 of these groups officially declared that they will not comply with the agreements. By the way, Ahrar al-Sham, which we proposed including on the list of terrorist organisations together with another group, Jaish al-Islam, as part of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, is also on that list. Our partners then said that this will prevent us from working efficiently. As a goodwill gesture we did not insist at that time, limiting terrorist lists to Jabhat al-Nusra and the so-called Islamic State.

Right after it was announced on September 12 that the Russian-US agreements had come into force, the Ahrar al-Sham leadership officially declared that it will not comply with them, because they designate Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist organisation while Ahrar al-Sham does not regard it as such and closely collaborates with it.

I believe the time has come to consider reviewing the list of terrorist organisations, especially given another event that took place recently, which I would like to mention. Over the past few days, Syrian troops have been repelling fierce attacks by an organisation called Jund al-Aqsa in the north of the Hama province, in the districts of Qabbara and Ma’an. Incidentally, commenting on the fighting there, some blamed the ceasefire violations on Syrian government troops. However, yesterday, the US Department of State announced that the United States has put Jund al-Aqsa on the list of terrorist organisations so I hope that no one will now call for a ceasefire with this terrorist organisation. To reiterate, this, as well as what I have said about Ahrar al-Sham’s position, makes it necessary to revisit the list of terrorist organisations. It is high time everyone stopped shielding the opponents of peace, those who are refusing to honour agreements and UN Security Council resolutions. They must be put in the same league with terrorists.

To be continued...


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