Remarks by Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following UNSC meeting on Syria
Q: Ambassador, North Korea the 1718 report. What was Russian objection to it?
A: There were some problems there. We are on the way of finding a solution.
Q: So once there is a solution, will it be published?
A: First, we have to discuss it in the Committee and then we will go further.
Q: What are the agreements with Turkey on Idlib?
A: The process of consultations with Turkey is going on constantly - directly and through the Geneva process. You know that De Mistura is meeting special representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran. They are discussing the constitutional Committee, but it is not limited just to it, of course. I’m sure that they are raising the situation in Idlib. So the process is going on.
Q: But do they want a complete ceasefire?
A: Have you read what President Putin said in his reply to President Erdogan? He raised that issue at the meeting in Tehran.
Q: Mr. Ambassador. You said that you are preparing for the international conference on the return of refugees.
A: They said that they would be working towards convening the international conference on Syria and refugees.
Q: If I understood you correctly, you said that Ambassador Hailey’s remarks went beyond chemical weapons.
A: I noticed on Friday that when the US spoke on the same issue, they were sending signals and warnings that they might intervene not only if the Syrian government allegedly uses chemical weapons but even if it starts an operation in Idlib.
Q: But have you asked Washington for clarity? Did the Kremlin or your military contact them?
A: We are nothing signals and taking them into account. If you read what Russian officials replied to that, you’ll understand what we think about it. We think that it is inadmissible to condition the right of the sovereign government to take over the control of its own territory because we all commit every time, now and then, to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria. As I said today, we are no less aware of the situation with the civilians in Idlib and, of course, we are taking precautionary measures.
Q: You mean, this warning will not change the calculations “on the ground”?
A: The final goal of what is happening and what is being discussed by our partners in the Security Council from the coalition is that they want to make anything possible to keep Idlib as it is. Because this is their last hope anyway. When Idlib is under the government’s control, what will be left? The illegitimate US presence in North East.
Q: So this warning would change the Syrian government’s calculations when it comes to getting Idlib back? Or the military operation “on the ground”? Or do you think that the government will take it back either way?
A: I would not like to dwell into details of the military operation. I’m not a military expert and I’m not planning it. But the fact that terrorists should be dealt with in Idlib is unquestionable. We cannot establish a ceasefire with the terrorists.
Q: Can you update us on talks that you have with opposition groups inside Idlib?
A: The success of Astana in general lies in the fact that people started talking to each other “on the ground”. They were not theoretical figures like those who represent the opposition in Geneva, for example. They were people from the ground who knew the realities, with whom negotiations were about specific things. Conditions under which agreements were made were acceptable for those people “on the ground” and that is why Astana is a relative success in whatever is happening around Syria. So the same thing is happening today. In Idlib our military are trying to establish rapport with those people who control specific concrete areas in that province and to make arrangements with them to separate the moderate opposition groups with the terrorists who are listed, who are not parties to those negotiations.
Q: Do you think that if you bring Idlib back under the government’s control, it will mean the end of the war? Is that the final step?
A: I have no idea. But there is no military solution in Syria. We need the political solution.
Q: Final thing is the Moscow meeting you mentioned.
A: It was announced that it would be in December and it would take place in Moscow, but there are no dates and no list of participants so far.
Q: Thank you.