Inter-Syrian contacts in Moscow: step in the right direction (by Ambassador Yakovenko)

The four-day inter-Syrian meeting in Moscow has come to an end. It was the first time since the talks were suspended in 2014 that representatives of the SAR Government engaged in direct contact with the Syrian opposition. The moderator of the meeting, the renowned Middle East expert Vitaly Naumkin, summed up the Moscow Principles, in which the firm positions of the parties aimed at preserving Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, ensuring security for all groups of the Syrian society. During the meeting, participants also drafted and adopted the Appeal to the International Community.
Of course, it would be naive to assume that after nearly four years of bitter confrontation the parties would immediately come to an agreement on the ways out of this deep crisis. What’s important is that the discussions held during the meeting, reflect the growing willingness of various groups of the Syrian society to engage in proactive and result-oriented efforts to restore peace in Syria. Russia supports such aspirations. In his remarks, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted Russia’s consistency in promoting a political settlement in Syria based on the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, as well as its commitment to and support for the Geneva process.
Transition from confrontation to dialogue and bringing about solutions to pressing issues on the national agenda require considerable efforts, including the mutual willingness to make inevitable concessions and reach compromises. This is the only way to save Syria and defeat the forces that want to degrade its people, split and undermine the unity of the country while ignoring the risks of the spread of extremism and international terrorism across the region.
We believe that understanding on the part of politicians and the leading representatives of civil society of the need to put up a collective rebuff to this common threat should be key to restoring national unity in Syria.
Undoubtedly, this will require further talks in order to find common ground regarding arrangements on practical measures to build trust between the Government of Syria, the political opposition and civil society, to expand and improve the practice of local ceasefires, to remove obstacles to humanitarian access, to settle the status of militants who have laid down their arms and to free the people under arrest who were not involved in terrorist crimes.
The positive feedback we receive regarding the Moscow meeting is encouraging. What’s more, it comes not only from the participants, but also from the members of the opposition who, for some reason, couldn’t come this time. Both the opposition and the Government expressed their desire for consultations in the Moscow format to continue. We stand ready to further facilitate inter-Syrian contacts. Concurrently we will hold consultations with our colleagues, including Syria’s neighbours. We plan to work closely with Egypt, since that country is also taking steps to help form a single opposition stance. Thus, we entertain modest hope that we can help facilitate full-fledged negotiations, at which the Syrians themselves will reach agreement on all aspects of life in their country. It is important to remember that the whole point of the Geneva communiqué is that the settlement process cannot and should not be a zero-sum game. All Syrians must benefit from it and be part of it.