Vienna meeting on Syria: Fighting terrorism should become a priority

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
The United Nations headquarters building is pictured in Vienna © Herwig Prammer
With the world discussing ways to defeat the ISIS, we are witnessing positive momentum in agreeing a political process for Syria.

A second round of constructive multilateral talks on the Syrian crisis was conducted a few days ago in Vienna, meaning that the International Syria Support Group has been established and is operational.

One of its important outcomes is that specific steps have been outlined that need be taken with regard to the political process in Syria, notably the request for UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to convene a meeting with the Syrian government and opposition by 1 January 2016.

The Syrian Government has already provided information about the members of its delegation who will participate in these talks. Now we have to identify the members of the opposition delegation which has to be representative of the entire spectrum of opposition forces. All participants of the Syria Support Group should do their best to have both delegations sit down and start talking about Syria’s future as soon as possible. For this matter, it is important that the Syrian sides implement confidence-building measures on the ground.

Another practical decision was that certain deadlines were set for the political process – roughly six months for Syrians to agree on some kind of joint national unity governing body, and another 18 months to jointly draft a new constitution and hold elections based on that constitution. This fits into the logic of the Geneva communiqué of June 30, 2012, according to which, in any case, the Syrians will have themselves to decide on all the political reforms.

Of course, we would all like to see violence in Syria stop as soon as possible. The majority of the delegations in Vienna were in favor of an immediate ceasefire, but, unfortunately, some weren’t.

Therefore, we consider it necessary to reaffirm our commitment to keep working to create proper conditions for a ceasefire. This will help us step up efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Syrians, ensure access to all those in need, and to address the refugee problem.

What still needs to be comprehensively addressed is drafting a list of terrorist organizations in Syria. It has been agreed in general that ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are definitely on this list, but other terrorist groups must also become common legitimate targets. We have turned to Jordan to help coordinate drafting such a list, acceptable to all, which will then be approved by the UN Security Council.

We believe that the Vienna meeting’s vital outcome, given the heinous terrorist acts that have taken place in Paris on its eve, as well as in Beirut, Ankara and Sinai, is the growing understanding of the need to build an efficient and broad-based international coalition to fight the so-called “Islamic State” and other terrorist groups. What happened in recent days should convince even die-hard skeptics that not only anything cannot justify terrorism but nothing can justify our inaction in the face of this evil either.

We are convinced that coordination is in common interest and that fighting terrorism should not come with any preconditions. We shouldn’t allow terrorists to prevail in that region, as they are trying to play on differences between Russia, the United States and other members of the international community.


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