Secretary of State
London, United Kingdom
February 4, 2016
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Well, this conference today of course is primarily about the humanitarian challenges in Syria, both raising money for the short-term support of refugees, but also moving on to thinking about the stabilization and then the reconstruction of Syria once Assad is gone and the new Syria can be built. And of course, in the margins of this discussion, we are meeting, as we’ve met over breakfast this morning, with a group of likeminded countries to talk about the challenges of supporting the political process, the dialogue in Geneva, which we’re all very keen to keep momentum in that dialogue. And we’ve been discussing this morning ways in which we as a group of likeminded countries can support the parties to that dialogue to enable them to keep talking in what are very difficult circumstances. We recognize that it’s difficult for the regime to be at the table talking to the opposition. It’s difficult for the opposition to be talking to the regime when their people at home are being killed through bombing and other forms of attack. But we have to continue with this process because it is the only way to get a solution to the disaster that is engulfing Syria. John.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me begin, first of all, by thanking Foreign Secretary Hammond for his leadership and the leadership of the UN and Germany and other countries who have brought us all here for a very important conference this morning to commit to dealing with the humanitarian situation in Syria. I agree with Philip completely about the road ahead here. Staffan de Mistura has temporarily interrupted the talks in order to try to resolve some of the issues regarding the next steps, if you will.
The UN Resolution 2254 on which these talks are based, paragraph 12, I quote, “calls on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe, and unfettered access throughout Syria by the most direct routes; allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, particularly the besieged and hard-to-reach areas.” And in addition, there are other things that it calls on. It also – paragraph 13 – “demands that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.”
It could not be more clear. That is an obligation that is not tied to talks. It is an obligation accepted by all parties in the United Nations resolution. Russia voted for that, Russia has a responsibility, as do all parties, to live up to it.
So I had a conversation this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. We discussed, and he agreed that we need to discuss, how to implement the ceasefire and also how to get access by both parties – the opposition needs to allow access for humanitarian assistance and the regime in Syria needs to allow access. So we had a robust discussion this morning about that. We will be continuing the discussion. Foreign Minister Lavrov and I will talk again today or tomorrow as we further this process and find the way forward to be able to implement this resolution fully.
I’m very grateful, again, to Foreign Secretary Hammond for convening us today to talk about this. And we will look forward to the ISSG meeting as an important next step in order to bring the parties to a place of understanding how to move forward. We will, I’m confident, find a way to move forward.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Thank you, John.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir.