Secretary Kerry at a Press Availability with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura

Press Availability

John Kerry

Secretary of State

New York, NY

December 18, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good evening, everybody. Thank you very much for coming. First of all, I want to express again my appreciation and the appreciation of all of the P5 members of the International Syria Support Group who worked through the day, and I appreciate Foreign Minister Lavrov’s engagement and his commitment to trying to get to a place that everybody could be comfortable.

What we’ve achieved today is to pass a resolution in the United Nations Security Council for the first time since this war started that embraces a roadmap for actually trying to end it – a roadmap to try to bring about a peaceful resolution through the political process, obviously. For years now, country after country and at meeting after meeting, we have reinforced the notion that there’s no military solution; there has to be a political solution. The only problem is the only thing playing out was the military track, and there was no political track.

So now, finally, after two meetings in Vienna and the meeting here, and today’s unanimous vote in the Security Council, there is a clear United Nations-embraced, Security Council-endorsed political track that reflects the hard work of the International Syria Support Group, which, for the first time, is a group that contains all of the parties engaged in support or in opposition to the Assad regime.

So we have Iran, Russia, the Organization of Islamic Communities, the – some 20 entities, 20 states altogether, all of the immediate neighbors, all of the stakeholders – and all of them are committed to a set of principles for how to move forward – not just principles, actually, but for very specific timelines and framework – specifically, a embrace of the Geneva communique, which specifically talks about a transitional governing body by – arrived at by mutual consent, with full executive authority, that begins a transition in Syria and that also embraces the beginning of a constitutional reform process.

When I was in Moscow with President Putin, he reiterated to me that President Assad agreed with him to engage in this political process, to engage in the constitutional reform process, to embrace an election. And so we begin with a clarity about the steps that need to be taken. We also have a timeframe that that transitional process needs to try to be achieved within the target time of six months. In addition, the election needs to take place within 18 months, same starting time. So after nine – six months of the transition, you’re about a year away, hopefully – or less – from an election.

It also embraced a ceasefire, and a ceasefire is critical to the capacity of the parties to come together and be able to negotiate and to begin to deal with the problem of refugees, displaced people, the humanitarian crisis of Syria. I think all of us – and I speak for the United States, which is the largest donor, I think $4.5-plus billion to refugees – it doesn’t do any good just to keep writing the check and replenishing the pool that keeps growing. We have to start to end the supply of refugees and begin to provide people with a life that is built on this political process.

That’s our goal. No one is sitting here today suggesting to anybody that the road ahead is a gilded path. It’s complicated. It will remain complicated. But this at least demands that the parties come to the table. And importantly, the opposition has begun its own meetings. The Saudi Arabians in Riyadh held an important gathering. Staffan de Mistura, to everybody’s agreement, will be the convener and the person who melds the appropriate entities to be – to create the dynamic necessary to create a negotiation that has the potential of being successful.

So we are in a place where we also are calling on the parties to provide for the capacity for humanitarian assistance to reach the people who need it. We call on people to cease the use of certain kinds of weapons – barrel bombs, other weapons – and to stop, obviously, immediately, attacks against civilians. And obviously, with the ceasefire, that becomes more broad and more broadly enforceable, and that is critical.

In addition, we are very hopeful that this process will result in the people of Syria being able to reclaim their future. One of the guiding principles of this agreement is that Syrians must ultimately decide the future of Syria. And we have jealously guarded that principle in the context of the lead-up to these negotiations. The International Syria Support Group will continue to do exactly what its name implies. We will support the process. We will support Staffan de Mistura, support the United Nations, support the parties in helping them to come to the table.

So again, I thank my co-convener in this endeavor, Sergey Lavrov, who has helped to bring disparate parties to the table in an effort to try to build a base structure here that we have not had in all of the years of meetings and all of the years of the war.

So I hope that this is a moment for possibilities. The proof will be in the work yet to be done. And with that, let me turn to Sergey Lavrov.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: For the benefit of the Russian media, I’ll speak Russian, one of the official UN languages, right? (Laughter.)

(Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by expressing my appreciation to John Kerry, because it was his initiative to gather all of us here in New York. This initiative from the very beginning was not a guarantee of success, and yet we agreed that it was necessary, first and foremost, to try to achieve unanimity within the framework of the ISSG. It is a very difficult group because it brings together countries that have diametrically opposed opinions to the Syrian crisis and to (inaudible). But that is also the strong suit of this group, because only by engaging all the stakeholders that can influence the situation on the ground can we achieve a good result.

Do you hear?

QUESTION: We’re not getting anything.

QUESTION: Number one.

SECRETARY KERRY: Are you getting?

QUESTION: Yeah, number one, number —

SECRETARY KERRY: We are, we’re on number one.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Is the interpretation – can you hear the interpretation?

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s all right. If you’re getting it —

QUESTION: You’re okay. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: — that’s important.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

STAFF: It’s his volume – he doesn’t have the volume up, sorry.

SECRETARY KERRY: It helps to plug it in. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Oh, is it German? (Laughter.) Is it German or Japanese or what? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s very high-tech. (Laughter.) Can you try – can you give us a little —

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Yes, I think that now you can hear the interpretation.

SECRETARY KERRY: Perfect. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) So let me continue.

So it is quite a complicated group because it brings together countries that are sometimes sticking to diametrically opposed opinions to the Syrian crisis and to ways towards settling it. But it is also the strong suit of this mechanism, because only by bringing together all the external players that can and indeed influence what is going on on the ground can we achieve good results.

And I believe that was a very good decision, the right decision, to concentrate to the meeting of the International Syria Support Group. Today we have had very interesting, frank discussions within the framework of this group about how to move forward with a view to implementing the agreements that were reached in Vienna. I’m referring particularly to counterterrorism, to the task of intensifying our efforts for putting into place the conditions for a political process. And I refer in particular to our responsibility to remember the refugees, the humanitarian aid, everything that has to be done to alleviate the sufferings of the civilians and to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria and in other countries as well.

We have achieved a common understanding; all those principles that were reached in Vienna on October the 30th and November the 14th are not to be revisited or reviewed, and that is our common ground that has allowed us to apply to the Security Council, asking it to endorse the activities the ISSG is engaged in. And this resolution we adopted today has reaffirmed the need to continue our efforts within this format, the ISSG format. And it also reaffirmed all the principles that have been laid in our decisions in Vienna, which, as John has mentioned, are a roadmap for implementing practically the Geneva communique of 2012.

The key principle is that only the Syrian people themselves can determine their future – the future of the country. Everyone agrees with this principle, but let’s be frank: Not everyone has renounced any preconditions or their own interpretation of how this principle can be applied. The fact is not everyone has renounced a military settlement of the crisis, which for us is absolutely inadmissible. But the most important success of today is that we have rationalized the Vienna document. We have actually (inaudible) adopting (inaudible) SC resolution, Staffan de Mistura has received a concrete mandate to start work to convene a meeting between the government and the whole gamut of opposition groups. We have (inaudible) different events that take place in different countries over the last time with a view to bringing together all the opposition members on a constructive platform such that’s (inaudible) Moscow and Cairo. Just recently a meeting has been held in Riyadh.

These outcomes are not always absolutely unambiguous, but we try to establish what is bringing together – what’s the common ground for these opposition groups. And they are all advocating negotiations with the government, some with reservations, others unequivocally. But the most important thing there is advancement; there is movement to the political process.

The tasks before Staffan de Mistura and his team are not easy. As co-conveners of the ISSG, we have committed ourselves to facilitate his work and the work of his colleagues in organizing this process. We do hope that just as enshrined in the resolution, the ISSG is going to accompany all these efforts that have been undertaken. With the support of the Security Council, we will be able to move forward. That requires indefatigable, persistent efforts on a daily basis.

And that’s why, in accordance with John Kerry’s proposals, we intend to meet in January once again. By that time, it will have already been established what the list of those organizations are – is going to be which are going to be invited through the United Nations to participate in intra-Syrian negotiations. And by that time, we’ll have already understood what are the starting positions of those who are participating in these talks and this platform.

So I am not too optimistic about what has been achieved today, but a very important step has been made to create the requisite external conditions for Syrians to be able to do what we all expect them to do, and that is got down to agreeing on the issues that will determine the future of their country.

SECRETARY KERRY: Staffan.

MR DE MISTURA: Thank you. Thank you very much. Do you remember the name “Mission Impossible”? Well, mission impossible is becoming potentially possible thanks to what we saw today. The international community has shown three times now unity, and not only in the international support group, but even today with the unanimous decision at the Security Council. So it’s going to be uphill, it’s going to be complicated, but it’s becoming possible.

Secretary-General was attending twice today, sending the message the UN is ready to pick up what has been six points of action expected by yourselves for the Secretary-General and the UN to follow up on. Of course, it’s up to the Syrians, and the Syrian people will be helped if this unity we are seeing today will continue.

So thank you very much. The job is just starting. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Indeed. So I think – what are we doing, John?

MR KIRBY: Yes, sir. We have time for three questions tonight, ladies and gentlemen. The first question will come from Talal Al-Haj, from Al Arabiya.

QUESTION: Yes. Can you hear me?

MR KIRBY: Yep.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: No.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) (Inaudible.)

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Your mike is not working.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Talal Al-Haj from Al Arabiya and Al Hadith* news channels. Thank you, gentlemen, for briefing us in this very momentous occasion. And I’m speaking on behalf of United Nations Correspondents’ Association, UNCA. Thank you again.

Secretary Kerry, when you spoke and you briefed to the Security Council about the remaining problems, among most is – and most prominent is the future of Assad, President Assad’s presidency. Aren’t you really just kicking the can ahead not dealing with the problem now? Because you’re going to have to face it in the future – whether after six months, two years, eighteen months, it has to be dealt with. And what are you going to say to the opposition, the Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia, who are saying today that they want Assad out in the beginning of the transitional process to attend Geneva talks?

And Foreign Minister Lavrov, sir, do you read the resolution when it says the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria, that it’s saying it will decide the president of Syria, endorsing your position? Is that how you see it as well?

And Special Envoy —

MR DE MISTURA: Three questions.

SECRETARY KERRY: Sounds like three questions all at one time. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This is not a question, actually. We just want to wish you the very, very best of luck because you’re going to need it, sir. Thank you.

MR DE MISTURA: Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: The answer is no, we’re not kicking it down the road at all. On the contrary, we’ve just embraced in at least – I can’t remember how many paragraphs, but seven or eight times it is repeated – the full implementation of the Geneva communique. In fact, it even mentions transitional governance. It mentions in this resolution the process that we have to enter into immediately. And the target for that is within six months. Now, that means that within a month or so, two months, decisions are going to have to start to be made about the devolution of some power and the creation of a unity entity, this transitional body that is going to have full executive authority.

Now, either that happens true to the word of this, or you begin to see that this isn’t going to work. It’s that simple. But you’re not going to wait a year and a half or a year or six months to know that. You will see very quickly whether or not transitioning is beginning to take place. And everybody signed up to that – three times, I might add: Vienna 1, Vienna 2, today, and – four times – and in the UN Security Council. So we have to confront this question of what shape this takes. The Iranians put together a peace proposal a year ago or so. Their peace proposal said ceasefire, constitutional reform, a unity government – unity government – and an election. So this is even close, with some variances, to what the Iranians themselves put on the table.

So now is the time to match with actions the words that have been announced at several different meetings and on various occasions over the course of the last four years, but this is not being kicked down the road. It is actually being timed out and timeframed and made into a more urgent and necessary transitional process. And it’s going to be important for all of us to stick together in that process.

Now, one of the concessions made by the opposition was this notion of an – by everybody, by the way. We started, the United States, saying – I can’t remember, a year and a half, two years ago – that we thought maybe a month, two months, three months. We didn’t know exactly when, but we began to really come to the reality that this demand was in fact prolonging the war, creating greater agony and suffering, and not getting us anywhere but in a stalemate. And so it was important not to put this cart before the horse and require a determination about a penultimate issue before you begin to get to the table and actually engage in some of the negotiation and build some confidence and build a map for the road ahead – which, by the way, can begin to have an impact on the judgments that people are making about urgency and about timeframe. I think a lot of credibility can be bought over the course of the next months short of totally resolving the question of where we’re heading.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) As we take up the question, and to be honest, not just in the Vienna documents, not just in the Security Council resolution, but also in the Geneva communique (inaudible) Security Council and that resolution, it says that there is a concept of national unity through establishing a governing body on the basis of mutual consent of the government and the whole gamut of the opposition. So this concept has never been denied by anyone. It is the groundwork for our work. It has been pursued and detailed and today it has been enshrined in a Security Council resolution. We believe that the main task for Staffan de Mistura and his team is going to be to find a modality to facilitate the achievement of such mutual consent between the government and the opposition in order to establish credible, inclusive, nonsectarian governance, as it says in the documents.

Indeed (inaudible) this is not a task which can be resolved in a blink of an eye. Certainly, it will require diplomatic art and it will take time for the parties to get accustomed to one another and (inaudible) that this process is not going to be conducted ad infinitum. We have certain timeframe, just as John has mentioned. We do have (inaudible) six months (inaudible) can be achieved, and out of that the constitution will start to be elaborated. That is our joint recommendation. And onward, elections is going to be – are going to be held (inaudible) political process (inaudible) 18 months or so.

As to Bashar al-Assad’s fate, we don’t have that. (Inaudible) just recently, President Putin addressed the nation in his annual press conference and he elaborated on this issue. On the principle, we cannot agree with any (inaudible) which presupposes imposing on another nation from outside a certain vision of what its leadership should look like. There has been many, many examples in all the history. The crisis in Iraq was concentrated around demonizing Saddam Hussein; the same happened with regard to Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. We are witnessing what is right now happening in Iraq and what has happened to Libya.

So I’m hopeful that (inaudible) agreements are going to be successful, but it’s not all that easy. We have seen it in Yemen: Everything was concentrated around the need to (inaudible) President Saleh, who has been ousted on the basis of a document which was imposed on the sides of the Yemeni conflict. But this document is not working. Instead of trying to cultivate, to foster natural, mutual consent, a decision was imposed from outside. Even though it was supported by Russia, the United States, Europe, and the regional powers, I believe we should try avoiding the mistakes we have made. And that’s why, yes, in response to your question to me, only the Syrian people are going to decide their own future, certainly. It also covers the future of Syria’s president, and that is our deep conviction.

The last thing that I wanted to say: We often hear it said that without solving the Assad issue, it is impossible to achieve full-fledged coordination in counterterrorism. But this logic is very dangerous because it brings to naught all the principles enshrined and endorsed by the Security Council. These principles say that there is no justification whatsoever for terrorism and in counterterrorism there should be no preconditions. We should set our priorities straight: ISIS terrorists are our common threat and our civilizational challenged to the whole humankind, so sacrificing it in the name of political ambitions would be a terrible mistake.

MR KIRBY: The next question will come from Karen DeYoung, Washington Post.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a three-part question, but the parts aren’t very long, that is addressed to both Secretary Kerry and Minister Lavrov. In the Vienna 2 meeting, you appointed two committees to work on the formation of an opposition negotiating team and a agreed list of who – which organizations are terrorists. Neither of those questions was firmly answered before this meeting, which was supposed to happen. You now appear to have turned that process over to the United Nations. Why do you think that they’ll have better luck reaching agreement on those questions than the ISSG has had?

Secondly, many of the provisions in the resolution about humanitarian aid, about the cessation of attacks on civilians have been the subject of previous resolutions. They don’t seem to have had much effect. Why do you think this will now have effect in a way that they haven’t in the past?

And finally, in the Vienna 2 communique, there was a pledge by members of the ISSG to consider stopping assistance to parties to the conflict who did not get on board with a transitional process. It’s not specifically mentioned in this document. Is that pledge still operative among the members of the ISSG? And at what point would you agree to do that? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: So with respect to the opposition and the terrorism, the mandate out of Vienna was for these issues to be thoroughly examined for a discussion during the course of today, here in New York, and that discussion did take place. There was a presentation by Jordan, Foreign Minister Judeh, who was not making any decisions – it wasn’t his list that was created – but it was his culling of everybody’s input.

Over the last weeks, our military and intel people have given input to Jordan which coordinated – they were the coordinator of this effort – and they actually stimulated a very vigorous discussion this morning regarding who might or might not qualify as a terrorist. As you can imagine, there are differences of opinions. There are different people supported by different people, different people’s perceptions, but there was certainly a clear group that almost everybody unanimously felt qualified as a terrorist entity. But it was deemed that it was not constructive to sort of turn today into a designation process and that it was impossible, actually, to do so – to reach the consensus in the time we had.

So that effort has not been turned over to the UN; on the contrary, it will continue within the framework. In fact, a group of countries agreed to all work with Jordan on this next round to see if we can establish criteria that are more clear and come to an agreement going forward. We didn’t think, given where things are today in terms of the challenge of getting the talks going and ending the immediate violence, that this was going to be the differential. And so that component of it was really deferred for some later additional discussion.

However, there was a clarity with respect to the already designated entities of ISIL/Daesh, al-Nusrah are absolutely on the terrorist list. Everybody has agreed that they will stay there. There’s no notion of negotiation. And we will continue our joint actions and multiple actions against them.

With respect to – and when you say why would you have better luck now with respect to the (inaudible) or otherwise, well, the reason is that since the last meeting, there’s been the Riyadh meeting of one very significant collection – more significant than heretofore because it had a lot of fighters on the ground, it had people who had never met together and talked together. Now, that’s a beginning. Staffan de Mistura’s job is to sort of put the final grouping together and figure out – he’s going to begin a series of intra-Syrian conversations going into January for the purpose of completing his work as the true convener of the negotiations themselves. And he has the final say, and we made that clear today in the resolution.

With respect to why would this resolution have effect with respect to the weapons, well, it is correct that we are repeating something which has been stated previously. But it is now stated in the context of the United Nations Security Council resolution, which has impact of international law and mandate, and in addition to that, it is with the notion that everybody understands that in January, we hope and expect to be at the table and be able to implement a full ceasefire. And that means all the barrel bombs would stop, all the bombing, all the shooting, all the attacks on either side. And the modalities of that ceasefire are being worked on by the United Nations and will be set out over the course of these next weeks. So that’s why we believe this has greater gravamen – because of the fact that it may, in fact, be part of the context of a real ceasefire.

Finally, with respect to – the last part was – oh, the assistance to the parties. There was an agreement reached actually before we came here in the discussions in Paris that everybody will be better served by honoring one or two or three countries’ perceptions of a group as a terrorist group. And if some other country or party is knowingly funding that entity in the context of a negotiation – if we get to the negotiation in the context of a ceasefire, countries will cease support for those groups even if they are not designated as a terrorist entity. And that’s a pretty far-reaching step. The enforcement of it will be the magic of it, but it is a significant thing that all parties agreed to, in fact, do that if indeed the negotiations open and a ceasefire takes hold.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I should also like to support the clarifications John has just made. In Vienna on November the 14th, we didn’t establish any committees. Indeed, in Vienna we were talking, and that was reflected in our document. There are two topics: counterterrorism and preparing for the talks. With respect to terrorists, without establishing any committees, we decided to have an exchange of opinions with regards to whom we considered as terrorists, each and every one of us, and we requested that foreign minister of Jordan, Mr. Judeh, should coordinate this work, and that is exactly what he has done.

Given the very diverse character of the Vienna group, with countries holding to diametrically opposed opinions just as I’ve already mentioned, this list has proved to be very controversial. There are many situations when one country believes many – a multitude of terrorist organizations to be terrorists, and by other countries these organizations are not considered to be terrorists. We need some clarity here, and that’s why John and I and others agreed to elaborate certain criteria so as to add to ISIS and al-Nusrah other groups that are evidently terrorist groups.

To us, such things as regularly shelling living neighborhoods in Damascus, including with mortars; shellings against the Russian embassy in Syria are considered as criteria, and other actions like that. This work is going to continue and I am hopeful that we’re going to add new organizations to the list adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations. If you read the Vienna 2 document, then you know that it says that we welcome all efforts aimed at preparing the opposition, making it ready to engage in talks with the government. Today we gave some substance to these efforts. Such efforts were undertaken in Cairo, in Moscow, in Riyadh, in other venues, and once Staffan de Mistura gets down to implementing the Security Council resolution, he’s going to take into account all these processes that are ongoing. I believe there is progress. Probably this progress is not as dramatic, not as significant as we would all like it to be. But the situation is quite complicated.

Now, with regards to ceasing providing assistance to those who do not participate in this negotiating process, well, let me tell you that I didn’t participate in the Paris meeting, but I’d like to say that after the ISSG has been established, all these universal formats should probably be abandoned. We should probably concentrate on our work within this ISSG which we have established with so much difficulty and which represents all the key stakeholders.

Now, as to your question, I do not think that not everyone who is there on the ground should be invited to participate into the talks. Those who should be invited are only Syrians that represent opposition – armed opposition, but patriotic opposition – those who are not implicated in terrible actions perpetrated by ISIS or al-Nusrah. Al-Nusrah and ISIS should not be invited, should not be included in the negotiation process, nor should the negotiation process involve those who disseminate extremist and terrorist ideas. These groups should be excluded from the ceasefire once the ceasefire regime has been established. This is going to be our principal position.

So I believe that principle – if we’re talking about external support for different groups that are fighting in Syria, then the ideal solution, just as has been suggested by many countries here, is going to be to block the frontier, the boundary with Turkey. I do hope that everyone who is providing (inaudible) is going to do that.

QUESTION: Can we have follow-up on this, please? Can we have follow-up on this issue of terrorism?

MR KIRBY: Our last question tonight comes from Olga Denisova from RIA Novosti.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m here. The question for all the participants of the press briefing: According to the resolution that was just adopted by the Security Council, the talks between the representatives of Syrian Government and the opposition should start in early January. So the question: Do you really believe it will happen?

And please, the question for Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry: Have you used the chance to negotiate the possible coordination of U.S.-led and Russian military operations in Syria? Thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: So – go ahead.

MR DE MISTURA: Generally, issues – an invitation will be issued. Let’s be realistic. I mean, otherwise, we are going and becoming too ambitious. We just had now a Security Council resolution. We need to develop all this technique about who is going to be invited. Invitation will be issued in January. We intend and we hope that with the support of international community and the cooperation of every Syrian entity who will want to be part of this discussion, we will be able to do it in January. Saying it before would be premature and too ambitious, but you never know. But we will be aiming at that. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. I think it’s fair to say that we all agreed today that we don’t expect the negotiation to start on the 1st of January. Somewhere mid to late January is probably more reasonable. But as Staffan said, the invitations would go out; the process would begin.

To answer your question with respect to cooperation, this is an issue that I discussed with President Putin and have discussed several times with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the answer is now that we have a UN resolution and now that we have a process moving, that door is much more open and much more important for us to consider ways in which there could be greater cooperation. And as we get into the negotiation itself, I think it would be counterproductive not to be trying to grow the cooperation with respect to the fight against Daesh. We all have an interest in destroying Daesh as fast as possible. We could do that with more effective cooperation, but we also need to do it in a way where we have a process that’s clear so the opposition knows that this is not a surrogate for somehow backdoor support to the Assad regime itself. And I think we have ways of making clear that it’s Daesh, and that’s what our focus is on. So I’m confident those discussions will open up at this point.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) With respect to a timeframe for starting negotiation, I agree with Staffan and with John. To us, the most important thing is not to set up some artificial framework. But to achieve results, we have established a certain timeframe that is the beginning of January, but this is certainly not going to be an ultimatum. The most important thing is the substance, and that is going to require additional efforts, both from the UN team and also from everyone who is going to try to influence the government and the opposition to bring them together, to unite them at the negotiating table.

Now, with regard to our military contacts with the United States, such contacts are ongoing at the level of the heads of general staffs. And at other levels we have contacts with France, and another contact between our military is scheduled for several days to come. Recently we had contacts with the United Kingdom military.

Just one comment I’d like to make: We hear what our colleagues are telling us. Let’s start political process so that those who want to oust Assad get some hope that they might achieve this result. And then they’re saying we’ll be able to coordinate with you our fight against terrorism. It is very sad that once again our common task – and that is putting an end to terrorists – is becoming a hostage to one personality.

MR KIRBY: That concludes the press conference. Thank you all very —

SECRETARY KERRY: Could I – I just —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) another follow up?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I’d like to – no, I just want to comment on that for a minute. And I don’t want to open up. There are still some issues that we’re trying to work through, and one of them is the percentage of the Russian strikes that are actually going after the opposition versus Daesh. And so we’re trying to work on that, but if 80 percent are hitting opposition rather than hitting Daesh, it’s a challenge. And we’re trying to resolve that so that we can cooperate. I don’t say this as a division. I say this as a difference of view as to how we might better cooperate, and those are the things we’re trying to work through and I’m confident that we will.

I agree with Sergey completely: The objective is – and it would be if we were frozen into inaction – but we have been obviously doing an extraordinary amount against Daesh, and we now have Special Forces committed to that fight and other assets. So I don’t think anybody doubts our commitment to the effort to destroy Daesh.

Thank you all.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: I can only confirm that as regards the questions regarding our strikes, the proposal to coordinate on this remains on the table for the two and a half months now.

SECRETARY KERRY: And that’s why we’re going to do it.

MR KIRBY: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.