Question: Mr President, there are reports that both banks of the Euphrates River have been freed from ISIS in Syria. Are you receiving reports about this? Could you please comment? How will the situation develop from here? How would you characterise it?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Indeed, two hours ago the Defence Minister reported that operations on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates River have been completed with the full defeat of the terrorists. Naturally, there still may be some isolated pockets of resistance but let me repeat that on the whole, at this stage and on that territory, combat action has been completed with the full defeat of the terrorists.
Now, in cooperation with other participants in this process, the Syrian Government, the countries of the region and the UN, we should naturally move to the next stage – the start of a political process, as we agreed at the trilateral meeting of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey in Sochi, that is, establishing and holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, drafting a new Constitution and, as this process develops, holding presidential and parliamentary elections.
But this is a very difficult long-term job. To get started, it is necessary to take at least the first steps – consolidate the current situation and de-escalation zones, put a complete end to the bloodshed on Syrian territory and transition to a peaceful, political settlement process.
Question: Mr President, who will run your election campaign? Have you decided this yet?
Vladimir Putin: I will think about it. Not yet.