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The 11 of us are here because we each, our countries, have a profound stake in the serious crisis that is affecting the Syrian people, and an equally great interest in a peaceful, prosperous Syria that we hope will soon be able to emerge again. Your country, Mr. Foreign Minister, feels the consequences of this conflict especially strongly as more and more refugees pour across the border every day. And that is also true for Foreign Minister Davutoglu. This is an appropriate setting in which we should meet and discuss the road ahead. And it’s also, I think everybody would agree from the intensity and seriousness of the discussion we just had, this is a critically important moment for us to do so.
Recently we have seen a disturbing increase in violence at the hands of the Assad regime. It’s a trend that concerns every single one of us around this table, and we are convinced concerns people around the world. The massacres in Bayada and in Banias, the shedding of innocent blood, must end. And that is what brings us here. We don’t need more proof that now is the time to act; what we need to do is act.
When we met in Rome, we said with one voice that we wanted to move towards the transition government that was promised in the first meeting in Geneva, and we wanted a transition government without Assad because of the sheer necessity of trying to govern the country after all of this killing and bloodshed. We agreed to increase aid to the moderates in the opposition, including nonlethal aid. And when we next met in Istanbul, the opposition reaffirmed its support of the Geneva communique, the communique that calls for, very simply, a transitioning governing body with full executive authority chosen by mutual consent. We all agreed to direct military aid through General Idris, then the Supreme Military Council, in order to ensure that moderates and not extremists receive the necessary aid.
The opposition also signed at that time an important set of standards, standards that prohibit the use of chemical weapons. And they agreed to be inclusive of all minorities of all people in Syria and to be protective of every single minority. And this week, the opposition is meeting to discuss how to expand their membership in order to elect new leadership and how we can all work together to move the process forward.
When Foreign Minister Lavrov and I met two weeks ago in Moscow at the instructions of our two presidents – President Obama, President Putin – we reiterated our nations’ shared commitment to the sovereignty of Syria, its territorial unity, the need for a negotiated settlement, and our commitment to working in order to create a transition – to convene, if you will, a negotiation among the parties in Geneva.
So before I turn the floor over, let me just say one thing before we start to build on the progress that we made in Rome and Istanbul and Moscow. I want to reiterate what we talked about in the room a moment when we were alone. We all agreed that this is a pivotal moment. The only alternative to a negotiated settlement, the only alternative to trying to find success in a meeting in Geneva along the lines of the first Geneva communique, the only alternative to that is more killing, more innocent civilian deaths, more chaos, more instability in a part of the world that has already suffered too much from it. That path would lead, we all know, to a lot more families being torn apart, to a lot more refugees crossing the borders to Turkey, to Lebanon, to Jordan. It would cause instability in the region, as we know, and is a path that would lead ultimately potentially to the splitting apart of Syria itself.
There is another path, and that’s the one that we have decided that we have a responsibility to pursue, difficult as that path is, and we all know that. It is a path that leads to a political solution and a political transition to a renewed Syria, to a future of hope and not fear, and a much more stable Middle East and a much more secure world.
It is interesting that we are all seeking it. We don’t hear President Assad asking for it or looking for it. For that better outcome to prevail and to be durable, the negotiations must, of course, be between Syrians. So our job as the 11 states who call ourselves the Friends of Syria is to do everything in our ability to help the opposition to come to the table in a strong position and be able to negotiate effectively, even while we work with others to get the regime to the table too.
So I look forward to discussing further how we can help to hasten a better outcome in a more secure and a more prosperous country for the people of Syria and for every single one of us who shares a stake in their future and in the hopes of the possibility of peace. Thank you.