In the past few months, Russia and the United States were engaged in especially intensive efforts to find ways to reach a peaceful settlement in Syria that would liberate the country from terrorists and create an inclusive inter-Syrian dialogue.
Building on the provisions of the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and the decisions of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the Russian and US presidents agreed on steps aimed at restoring peace in Syria and providing access to humanitarian relief for the distressed population. This agreement was reflected in the Russian-US joint statement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria of February 22.
Throughout the process, Russia continuously emphasised the need to fully separate the units of the so-called “moderate” opposition from ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as soon as possible. The UN has designated them as terrorist organisations guilty of terrible atrocities. They are only interested in violence and therefore are not covered by the truce agreement. We have never concealed that we consider destructive the American tactics of indiscriminately using any opponents of the legitimate Syrian Government in the struggle against it. As is clear from the United States’ bitter experience with Al-Qaeda, which was nurtured by Western support to Afghan mujahideen, hopes that extremists will see reason have never been justified by subsequent events.
Seven months ago, in February, Washington promised us that it would do everything in its power to withdraw the forces of the US-controlled Syrian opposition from the regions occupied by the terrorists. However, no separation has taken place, which has allowed jihadis to operate under the cover of the “moderate” opposition and continue their bloody raids with impunity.
In this context Russia conducted several additional rounds of consultations with the United States on facilitating the stabilisation of the situation in Syria. These efforts resulted in the following agreements that specify and expand the provisions of the February 22 joint statement:
Standard Operating Procedures to Support the Cessation of Hostilities of March 28, 2016;
Approach for Practical Russian-American Efforts against Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra and Strengthening the Cessation of Hostilities of July 15;
Mandate of the Joint Implementation Centre (JIC) of July 24;
Agreement on steps to reduce violence, enable humanitarian access and establish the Joint Implementation Centre of September 9 and its supplement.
Each time we suggested publishing these documents immediately after they were agreed but our American partners objected, which raised doubts about their sincerity. Especially noteworthy was their reluctance to reaffirm in public their obligation to separate reasonable members of the opposition from Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate, and to carry out strikes in cooperation with Russia against any terrorists and their accomplices that do not stop fighting.
Only recently – after leaks in Western media – the US Department of State published some of these documents on its website without coordinating the date of their publication with us. In turn, we have published the texts of the relevant agreements in Russian. In so doing we are urging Washington to present to the public the entire package of agreements, including the JIC mandate whereby Russian and American military specialists undertake to identify targets and coordinate air attacks, as well as the second supplement to the September 9 document that determines the mechanism of monitoring the southern motorway route to Aleppo.
In addition, we hope that the United States will eventually fulfil its long-standing commitment on separation because many formations of militants whom Washington calls “moderate” are fighting on the side of Jabhat al-Nusra and have essentially merged with it. To repeat, no good has ever come from cozying up to terrorists.