Remarks to the press by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, before the Security Council meeting on Syria
V.Churkin: Two circumstances. We believe that the vote cannot take place today because for whatever reasons the draft resolution was put “in blue” at 11:20 this morning. It was announced it would be put “in blue” on Friday night, but the actual process of “putting into blue” took place today and so procedurally it has to be 24 hours, so the vote cannot take place before 11 AM tomorrow morning. Substantively there is an important reason for members of the Council to think about it because this draft resolution is not in line with what was agreed between Sergey Lavrov, our Foreign Minister, and John Kerry when they met on December 2. They met in Rome and actually on the initiative of Secretary Kerry they agreed on a plan on Eastern Aleppo. The core element of this plan is that the fighters must leave which is very much in line with what Staffan de Mistura was proposing previously. They agreed that the experts need to meet to flеsh out that plan and Minister Lavrov proposed that experts could meet immediately, on Sunday in Geneva but the Americans, as happens to them from time to time, they were not prepared, they said Wednesday or Tuesday night. We believe, frankly, in order it to be serious we need to wait for the result of that expert meeting and then pass the resolution. You can pass all sorts of resolutions about CoH in the Security Council but unless they are prepared they are not going to work. The fighters in Eastern Aleppo are not going to open a local newspaper tomorrow morning, read the text of the resolution and say “well, we need to stop fighting at 9PM today” – it is not going to happen unless there is a clear understanding by all the parties what needs to be done and that unfortunately is something that needs to be prepared.
We are calling consultations of the Council which are supposed to start 7 minutes from now and we will explain our position to the members of the Council and I hope the vote will be postponed until tomorrow.
Q: But it happened before that the Council have voted…
V.Churkin: It did happen before but it required unanimity, unanimous agreement, consensus on the part of members of the Council. Clearly there is no consensus this time, because Russia believes that we cannot vote unless 24 hours lapses from the moment the resolution was put in blue.
Q: Mr. Staffan de Mistura called to withdraw “Al-Nusra” fighters from Aleppo. Now Mr. Lavrov is talking about withdrawing all the fighters.
V.Churkin: It was Mr. Kerry who was talking about it, not Mr. Lavrov. Mr. Kerry initiated this conversation in such terms.
Q: What if they would go on with the vote?
V.Churkin: We will see what happens if they go on for the vote. Procedurally and substantively they cannot, as I said.
Q: Ambassador, including “Al-Nusra” into the cease-fire in Aleppo…
V.Churkin: Not a cease-fire. Including “Al-Nusra” in pulling out of the city. And that was the original idea of Mr. de Mistura I believe.
Q: So Mr. Ambassador, the draft resolution in its first paragraph says that “truce starts first, then …”
V.Churkin: The draft resolution is inconsistent in a number of areas. For instance, they say that 24 hours from now there is going to be cessation of hostilities (CoH). On the other hand they say that the parties to the conflict have 10 days to determine whether they want to join cessation of hostilities. So there are a number of shortcomings in this draft. But most importantly it does not address what we believe to be the core element and this is what the fighters need to do in order to avoid further bloodshed in those quarters of Eastern Aleppo which continue to be controlled by the fighters.
Q: Have you prepared any counter draft?
V.Churkin: No, we haven’t
Q: Wasn’t it put in blue on Saturday night?
V.Churkin: They said it would, but for some reason it wasn’t. It was put in blue only today at 11 AM.
Q: Do you think that the vote will take place tomorrow?
V.Churkin: Frankly, I don’t think a proper resolution might be prepared by tomorrow morning because the Americans were not prepared for the experts meeting, and it is going to start only on Wednesday. An appropriate resolution needs to take some time to be prepared. I cannot predict what the actions of the sponsors are going to be.
Q: Maybe they had to include all the amendments from your side and others?
V.Churkin: Actually they did include some amendments in the process of the work on that draft, which made it a little better than the previous one. But, frankly, it was a very confusing situation because for a while another draft was “sitting in blue”. Then this draft was circulated, then they announced that they are withdrawing that draft, but putting an updated draft “in blue”. But for some reason they didn’t put it “in blue” until 11:20 AM this morning.
Q: What were the amendments, that they included in the draft?
V.Churkin: They did include a number of amendments; I don’t want to recap the entire negotiations. Now we have a new situation. Now we have an initiative between two co-chairs of ISSG, which includes the withdrawal of the fighters from the city. This is something which would definitively help to improve the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, it will help to prevent situations of the kind we have seen tragically today when our medical staff was hit by a shell which was launched by the terrorists. As you know, two women died, another doctor is now in very serious condition. In order to prevent such things from happening we do need to resolve this matter of the fighters leaving the city, something that was proposed by Staffan de Mistura, something which was proposed again by John Kerry. Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry agreed that the experts need to flesh out the details of that plan.