Secretary Kerry Comments on Syria

During remarks with the Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commented on the fifth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. The Secretary of State said:

“Five years ago today, peaceful protestors gathered in the streets of Damascus and in Daraa and many other cities in Syria at the same time. And all of these people were calling for reform, for basic human rights and for justice and for jobs, for opportunity, for a future. Their peaceful protests were met with bullets and eventually with chemical weapons and barrel bombs and torture and starvation. Over the past five years, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died and millions have fled the country and millions more have been displaced within Syria’s borders. It has been nothing short of the most significant humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. And amid the chaos and the destruction, terrorism has, regrettably, found the cover that it needs in order to be able to flourish.

“But today, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the start of this horrific war, we may face the best opportunity that we’ve had in years to end it. The cessation of hostilities has obviously not been perfect. I don’t know one that ever has been. And we have raised and we will continue to raise our serious concerns about violations when they occur. But it’s also clear that the violence in Syria is down, very significantly reduced. And access to humanitarian assistance is up, though it still could be increased even further. The cessation of hostilities is now going into its third week, defying most predictions, and far more importantly, improving the lives of Syrians on a daily basis.

“Now, certainly, more progress has to be made. And we have a team that is working in Amman, Jordan and a team working in Geneva with a task force that is daily reporting on any potential violations and working through those violations. But with the cessation of hostilities largely holding, Russia’s announcement yesterday that it will remove half of its forces immediately and more perhaps from Syria, and with the political negotiations reconvening this week in Geneva, we have reached a very important phase in this process. Continued progress, in particular finally and fully ending the sieges on Syrian towns and cities and ensuring absolutely unimpeded humanitarian access – all of that will require vigilance from the international community.

“And over the weekend, last weekend, I met with many of our international partners in this effort. I met in Saudi Arabia and I met in France in order to discuss the path forward. I will be traveling next week to Moscow to meet with President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in order to discuss how we can effectively move the political process forward and try to take advantage of this moment.

“We know that despite the progress that we’ve made, despite the reductions in violence and the increases in humanitarian assistance and relief, lasting peace will be impossible without a genuine political transition. That is a simple statement of fact. For five straight years, the Syrian people have seen their communities torn apart. They’ve seen their families and friends killed; their homes, schools, and places of worship shelled and/or destroyed. Parts of their country have become a safe haven for Daesh and al-Nusrah terrorists.

So this is a moment to seize, not waste. We have at this moment the ability to finally take a step towards ending this war and the bloodshed. It is time for the Syrian people to have the opportunity to rebuild their country and their lives and it’s time for all of us, every interested party, to come together and find the way forward and be able to focus squarely on defeating Daesh.”

For more information:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 15, 2016.
Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 15, 2016

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