President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President Rouhani, Mr President Erdogan, ladies and gentlemen,
These tripartite talks have been held in a constructive and businesslike atmosphere. We discussed the key aspects of interaction to promote a settlement in Syria, and adopted a joint statement on the discussion, documenting the agreements reached.
Russia, Iran and Turkey will continue their efforts to combat terrorism, promote inter-Syrian dialogue and improve the humanitarian situation.
To meet these challenges, we plan to continue making wide use of the potential of the Astana format, which remains an effective tool for the normalisation of life in Syria and the implementation of political reforms in the interests of all Syrians without exception.
The practice of international meetings at the expert level will continue with the participation of delegations of guarantor countries, as well as representatives of the Syrian government, the Syrian opposition, and United Nations observers. As a reminder, there have already been ten rounds of such consultations.
Our common unconditional priority is the complete elimination of terrorism in Syria. The southwestern part of the country has recently been successfully liberated with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces. Our main goal at this stage is to expel the militants from the province of Idlib, where their presence poses a direct threat to the security of Syrian citizens and residents of the entire region.
We discussed specific measures for gradual stabilisation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, which, among other things, provide opportunities for the conciliation of those who are ready for dialogue. As President of Turkey, Mr Erdogan, has said, we call on all conflicting parties to cease fire and stop the violence.
At the same time, we consider unacceptable any attempts to spare terrorists or inflict damage on Syrian government troops under the pretext of protecting the civilian population. This seems to be the objective of the attempts to fabricate chemical attacks allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian government. We have irrefutable proof of militants preparing such operations and such provocations. In this connection, I have updated my colleagues on the work Russia is doing within the framework of the UN Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
I would like to stress that armed opposition units in Syria are also joining in the anti-terrorist efforts, which I consider extremely important. It undoubtedly increases the level of trust between the Syrian sides and contributes in general to the political settlement process.
We discussed with the presidents of Iran and Turkey progress in implementing the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. We paid special attention to the launching of the Constitutional Committee, and agreed to jointly assist UN work to select its members from among representatives of the Syrian government, the opposition and civil society. The Committee is to work out such parameters of the future structure of Syria that would ensure peace in a single sovereign state with territorial integrity for all Syrian citizens.
Russia, Iran and Turkey attach great significance to coordinated efforts on improving the humanitarian situation in Syria, restoring its economy and solving pressing social problems. We proceed from the assumption that it will be possible to ensure a mass return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons in the future.
Concrete work is already underway with Russia’s active participation. Conditions were created in Syria to accommodate up to one million refugees. The government has offered firm guarantees of safety and non-discrimination to all citizens returning to their homeland; this also applies to property issues.
We agreed with our Iranian and Turkish colleagues to step up trilateral coordination on key aspects of the humanitarian file and render aid to the population of Syria. I will stress that Russia has delivered over 3,000 tonnes of cargo to meet the urgent needs of the locals, and demined 6,000 hectares of the territory and 1,500 kilometres of roads. Considering the colossal scale of destruction, we think the initiative to adopt a comprehensive international programme on restoring Syria is timely.
In conclusion, I would like to express gratitude to our Iranian and Turkish partners for the substantive and productive talks, and also to thank Mr Rouhani for the organisation of today’s meeting. I am confident that the summit’s results will allow us to get closer to achieving lasting peace and stability in Syria.
Thank you for your attention.
Question: My question concerns Idlib. Could you tell us what has been agreed on Idlib, what is in store for it? You have already spoken about some measures. How long could the conciliation attempts you spoke of last? And in your opinion, does the situation in Idlib carry a risk for all of Syria? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: It was said here, and everyone is well aware that there are many civilians in Idlib. We definitely should keep that in mind. This is first and foremost.
At the same time, we see what is going on there. At one time, we assisted in having radical elements, including members of obvious terrorist organisations designated as such by the UN, move from different areas of Syria to the Idlib zone. We even agreed that they could move there with firearms. But there is enough heavy weaponry in the Idlib area. This is my first point.
The second point. Militants of different groups manage to build drones, and they somehow manage to get spare parts and everything needed to make those drones and use them for their purposes. We also see that there are clashes within the Idlib zone. All this cannot but raise concern, alongside the fact that terrorists hide behind civilians, as they always do. Let me reiterate – this happens always and everywhere, including a number of cases in Syria too.
I can use the events in Raqqa as a salient example. It was captured by US-controlled armed groups with active support from the US air force. Back then, we heard that terrorists who hid behind the civilian population were to blame for civilian casualties.
On our part, I mean the Russian armed forces and the government army, if you noticed, have always tried to provide an exit for the civilian population (and often managed to do so).
Actually, I would like to thank the leaders of Turkey and Iran present here for that, because we could hardly have resolved the problems this way if our special services and our armed forces, representatives of the armed forces, had not been collaborating so effectively.
But we proceed, of course, from the assumption that an agreement will be reached. We believe that our call for reconciliation in the Idlid zone will also be heeded. At the same time, all our agreements on Syria stem from the fact that we are striving and will strive to reconcile all the conflicting sides whereas we always bracketed out terrorist organisations. But let us hope that members of the terrorist organisations are smart enough to stop resisting and to lay down arms.