STATEMENT BY US SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA MICHAEL RATNEY ON THE SUSPENSION OF THE SYRIA NEGOTIATIONS IN GENEVA, FEBRUARY 4, 2016

U.S. Department of State

Office of The Special Envoy for Syria

Statement on the Suspension of the Syria Negotiations in Geneva

As Secretary Kerry noted on 3 February 2016,

“The continued assault by Syrian regime forces — enabled by Russian airstrikes — against opposition-held areas, as well as regime and allied militias’ continued besiegement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, have clearly signaled the intention to seek a military solution rather than enable a political one.  We call upon the regime and its supporters to halt their bombardment of opposition-held areas, especially in Aleppo, and to lift their besiegement of civilians in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2165, 2254 and 2258.  It is past time for them to meet existing obligations and restore the international community’s confidence in their intentions of supporting a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.

We look forward to the resumption of talks later this month, as outlined by Special Representative de Mistura.  During this pause, the world needs to push in one direction — toward stopping the oppression and suffering of the Syrian people and ending, not prolonging, this conflict.”

In light of Staffan de Mistura’s decision to suspend Syrian negotiations on 4 February 2016, I want to highlight the fact that continued attacks by Russian and regime forces, particularly in and around Aleppo, have led to reports of civilian casualties, increased displacement of Syrian citizens and the possible obstruction of humanitarian assistance routes.  It is difficult in the extreme to see how strikes against civilian targets contribute in any way to the peace process now being explored. These are strikes not aimed at Daesh – a common enemy to the entire international community — but rather, almost exclusively on the opposition.  These acts not only run counter to the desires of the Syrian people, who want to see a political process and transition away from Asad, but also to the stated intentions of the Russians themselves, who have publicly committed to the Vienna process and to seeking a unified, whole, and non-sectarian Syria that has at its head a government responsible for and responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.

The U.S. government wishes to stress that U.N. Security Council resolution 2254, for which the Russians voted, calls on the regime and all parties to cease bombings and other attacks on civilians — not eventually, but immediately. The Syrian people want an end to the violence and destruction that has plagued their country for five years.  So do we. So does the international community. It’s time for everyone in that community to honor their commitments and help move the political process forward.

As we’ve long said, there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria, and efforts to seek one are only making peace more elusive.

Michael Ratney

Special Envoy for Syria