Top US and Russian diplomats discussed the step-by-step implementation of a 2012 roadmap to UN-supervised elections in Syria that could allow a Syrian government “to move back into the international community,” the US envoy for the war-torn country said Wednesday.
Ambassador James Jeffrey’s comments indicated a new US-Russian engagement on efforts to end the eight-year Syrian conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and lift Syria’s isolation in the West and elsewhere.
But Jeffrey cautioned that “this is just a potential way forward.” He noted there have been no steps such as a cease-fire in the last rebel-held stronghold in Idlib that the Trump administration is demanding or the convening of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria as called for in the roadmap.
Such steps “would give us confidence that the Assad regime actually understands what it must do to help end this conflict,” he told reporters after a closed Security Council meeting on Syria’s political situation.
Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, spoke of discussions that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in mid-May with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“In terms of working with the Russians in Sochi, we believe that there is a sincere interest in finding a solution to this conflict,” Jeffrey said. “But this is going to take hard decisions - hard decisions not only by us but hard decisions by the Russians and hard decisions, most of all, by the Syrian regime.”
The June 2012, Geneva agreement on a blueprint for peace in Syria was approved by representatives of the UN, Arab League, European Union, Turkey, and all five veto-wielding Security Council members - the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain.
It calls for a Syrian-led political process starting with the establishment of a transitional governing body vested with full executive powers, moving on to the drafting of a new constitution, and ending with elections. The Security Council unanimously endorsed the agreement in Resolution 2254 adopted in December 2015 that set a timetable for talks and a cease-fire that was never met.