Press Availability with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Vienna, Austria
November 14, 2015


I’ll just say what I said, the last part, in English. I want to make sure that it is absolutely crystal clear that the United States stands with France and the rest of the world in our resolve to eliminate the scourge of violent extremist groups from the face of the Earth. And make no mistake: that resolve has only grown stronger in the wake of this unspeakable brutality. And I think Sergey Lavrov and Staffan would agree with me that today in the meeting there was a broad-based sense of revulsion, of horror, and a deep commitment to do more to try to bring an end to the violence of the region and of the world.

It is respect for life and for its possibilities that drove our efforts today in Vienna, and frankly, every day in our pursuit of reconciliation and peace.

The war in Syria – now in its fifth year – has already left one in twenty Syrians wounded or dead. It has compelled one in five Syrians to flee as refugees. It has displaced half of that country’s population.

And all the while, the chaos unleashed by the war has created a haven for Daesh and other terrorist organizations to thrive.

If neither the dictator Bashar al-Assad nor the terrorists are the answer – and they are not – our challenge is to create the conditions under which a clear and broadly accepted, viable alternative can emerge.

In the United States, President Obama has set forth three inter-related goals: first, defeat Daesh; second, stabilize the region; and third, support a political transition to end this civil war. And those are not in order of priority or you have to do one before the other. They can be done simultaneously.

The events in Paris underscore the threat that Daesh poses to all of us – in the region and well beyond it, unfortunately. This is a major reason that President Obama has announced new steps to take on Daesh on militarily.

But we also know that Daesh cannot be defeated in the end without de-escalating the underlying conflict in Syria, which attracts fighters to this battlefield. And that will require a political process, and that’s why we are here in Vienna yet again.

Today, Sergey Lavrov and I and Staffan joined representatives from the Arab League, China, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, and the United Nations. And we did so because we all recognize the urgency of this moment. There can be no doubt: This crisis is not Syria’s alone to bear. The impacts of this war bleed into all of our nations: from the flood of desperate migrants seeking refuge within the region or in Europe or beyond; to the foreign terrorist fighters making their way into Syria to join the ranks of groups like Daesh; to self-radicalized fighters, living among us, their minds poisoned by Daesh’s propaganda and lies.

Now, obviously, those of us who met in Vienna today – the International Support Group on Syria – do not agree on all the issues when it comes to Syria. We still differ, obviously, on the issue of what happens with Bashar al-Assad. But we are relying on the political process itself – led by Syrians, which it will be, going forward, and with Syrians negotiating with Syrians – that that can help to bring a close to this terrible chapter. We do agree on this: It is time for the bleeding in Syria to stop. It is time to deprive the terrorists of any single kilometer in which to hide. It is time that we come together to help the Syrian people embark on the difficult but extraordinarily high imperative of rebuilding their country.

I underscore: We did not come here to impose our collective will on the Syrian people. Exactly the opposite; the Syrian people will be – and must be – the validators of our efforts.

The Syrians will be the first to tell you that they need help from the international community, especially a consensus about how to achieve a political transition that will allow them to ultimately shape their own destiny.

Building that consensus has been our goal here in Vienna; in fact, building the structure, the pathway to be able to achieve that. And while a lot of hard work obviously remains, we have made critical progress. Together, our nations have reached a common understanding, still beyond where we were two weeks ago, regarding a series of steps that we believe will accelerate an end to the Syrian conflict, certainly can accelerate it if people take advantage of this opportunity.

Based on our shared belief in the necessity of a ceasefire and a parallel political process pursuant to the 2012 Geneva communique, we today discussed and laid out a path towards that political process and ceasefire and towards it on as rapid a path as possible.

We agreed on the need to begin formal negotiations between representatives of the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime, under UN auspices, with a target date of the two sides actually sitting down negotiating with each other no later, hopefully, than a target date of around January 1st. That’s pushing. The group has agreed to work with Special Envoy de Mistura to assemble the broadest possible spectrum of the Syrian opposition – chosen by Syrians themselves – to define their negotiating positions and determine who their representatives to the talks will be.

We agreed on the steps – that the steps outlined in the 2012 Geneva communique present the best path forward towards an actual political transition, and we support a Syrian-led transition process within a target of six months that will: establish credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance; set a schedule and a process for drafting a new constitution; and determine eligibility for voting and candidacy in elections.

We also agreed that free and fair elections would then be held, pursuant to the new constitution, within 18 months. These elections, we believe, would take place – not we believe – we agreed would take place under UN supervision with an emphasis on transparency and accountability, and with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.

But, as we underscored, this political process has to be accompanied by a ceasefire that will help to end the bloodshed as quickly as possible, and I might add that will help rapidly to define who wants to be considered a terrorist and who is not, understanding that Daesh and Nusrah are clearly and inexorably in that category now.

We agreed that the ceasefire would come into effect as soon as the representatives of the Syrian Government and opposition have taken initial steps towards the UN-supervised transition. The five permanent members of the Security Council pledged to support a Security Council resolution to empower a UN-endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission. And in coordination with our talks today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has ordered the UN to accelerate planning for supporting the implementation of that ceasefire, and the group agreed that the UN should lead the effort, in consultation with interested parties, in order to determine its requirements and its modalities.

We also pledged to take all possible measures to ensure that all parties – including those currently supported by nations represented here in Vienna – that they will all firmly adhere to the ceasefire. In other words, each country that supports or has influence with or supplies anybody in the field will become an enforcer of the ceasefire. We also agreed to press the parties to immediately end the use of indiscriminate weapons.

Now, let me be clear: the ceasefire, as I said a moment ago, does not apply either to Daesh or to Nusrah or to subsequently some group that in the days ahead may be determined by the support group as qualifying as a terrorist organization.

So that’s where we’re at. And I want to thank all of my colleagues who participated in our deliberation today. I’m particularly grateful as well to my president, who has always had a vision that we needed a political process and who has licensed me to pursue this with vigor. And obviously, I want to leave time for questions, and let me just recognize Sergey, if I may. I want to thank Sergey for his cooperative input to this, his effort to help bring about the results that we achieved today. Thank you.


FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Thank you, John. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s meeting was begun with a minute of silence for the victims of Paris terrorist attacks. We remembered victims of these atrocious Paris attacks as well as the victims of Beirut, Ankara bombings, and Egypt bombings.

And today, it is absolutely clear for me that yesterday’s atrocities in Paris can leave no one, no skeptic, doubting that terrorism cannot be justified, and it cannot also be justified that we stand idly by.

I also held today a couple of bilateral meetings with my colleagues, and I have a feeling that there was a growing understanding that there is a terrible need for efficient, comprehensive, international coalition to fight ISIS and other terrorists, as President Putin has said. And there are no prerequisites in this regard.

As for our work regarding Syrian reconciliation, John has already said the main points. We have reiterated the principles that we have achieved on the 30th of October in Vienna, what the stakeholders see as the Syrian future. We have reiterated that Syrian future will be decided by Syrian people alone. This regards also the destiny of Mr. Assad and any other politician in this country.

The last time when we met on the 30th of October in Vienna, we decided to do our homework on two areas. The first point is political process and acceleration of the beginning of this process. We have concluded some specific steps that we’re tasking our UN colleagues and Mr. de Mistura with, that is, to gather the opposition and the government no later than the 1st of January. The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has already informed Mr. de Mistura on the composition of their delegation. And today, Mr. de Mistura has the task to find the composition of the Syrian opposition delegation, which should be representative and reflect the whole spectrum of political forces.

One and a half year ago, efforts were taken to unify the opposition by our Egyptian colleagues. We also conducted some meetings in Moscow. And today, other representatives of the Syrian Support Group made the initiative to help Mr. de Mistura gather around an opposition delegation. And we welcome the efforts and will help in every way possible to gather the opposition and the government around the negotiation table.

As John has said, this will be a Syrian-led process and the Syrians will decide which country they will live in. At the same time, we have outlined as a timetable two occasions. The first point is that within six months the Syrian delegations should decide on the joint opposition, the so-called unity government. And then the Syrian people should decide on the – a new constitution, and according to this new constitution the elections will take place, and all this within 18 months.

That falls within the logic of the Geneva communique of the 30th of June, 2012, where it is stated that Syrians should decide on all the political reforms according to the mutual consent principle. Right after the Geneva communique was adopted, we tried to launch such a political process, but there were a lot of opponents at that point who said that external players – who said that Syrian cannot – the Syrians cannot agree between themselves so the mutual consent is impossible. We used to retort that we should at least try; and today, today I am happy to say that we managed today to at least start launching this political process.

And the second point of homework which we agreed upon on the 30th of October is trying to find a unified, common list of terrorist organizations. We have mutual agreements, as John has said, that ISIS and al-Nusrah Front are terrorist organizations, but other terrorist groups should also become the legitimate goal that we should fight together with.

Since the 30th of October, many participants of this group have drafted their own terrorist lists. And today, we have asked Jordan to coordinate the common list of terrorist groups which would be agreed upon in the UN Security Council. Russia would actively participate in this process. In the capital of Jordan, Amman, we have launched an information center also to fight terrorism and will try to do that.

We all want to stop violence in Syria and the majority of delegations today were for an immediate ceasefire; but unfortunately, not all of them were prepared for that. That is why today we reiterated our commitment to create conditions for a ceasefire and will continue to work in the political vein. And we have acquired information today from the UN secretary general that he has already tasked UN to plan the monitoring mission. We’re prepared to work on that.

We decided to accelerate efforts on humanitarian assistance, to accelerate efforts on access to those in need, and all that within the context of political process and to find agreements between those in the field. I mean governments and the armed groups, opposition groups, which are not terrorists.

Overall, I am satisfied that the International Group for Syrian Support has taken place. We are grateful to our colleagues for supporting our proposal to let the secretary general of the League of Arab States to take part in our group, and he has already done that today. And we also managed to make headway on our linked proposal to include the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also to take part in this group.

I find this fundamentally important because many tried to speculate on the Syrian conflict and tried to incite hatred among the Muslims. That is why I am convinced that the participation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will provide consolidation efforts and to affect positively this conflict.

Thank you.

MR DE MISTURA: Thank you. Thank you very much. And I must say, frankly, if it – we can say something it’s that the presence of both the Secretary of State and Minister Lavrov in this meeting and the previous meeting and being a great inspiration for all of us to make sure that this meeting also was productive. If those in Paris yesterday who had planned through that horror to actually influence or depress the intention by the international community of doing something constructive in Syria, the response was today. Not only it was not just another meeting, but it was further momentum. As you heard, not only we have one and half page, this time we have three pages of detailed, doable, actionable initiatives. And you heard them.

The UN is ready, and thank you for your confidence and for your intention of helping UN to do that. We are ready for the intra-Syrian consultations. We have been ready for a while. We needed this, this type of critical mass coming from the International Support Group and a continuing support with them. We had it on the second time.

We are ready for starting anytime with this political process. What we need is having the two delegations. The Government of Syria has told us and has informed us – I was in Damascus recently – that they’re ready with their own delegation. The opposition needs to come up and we will help them, because now there is a momentum and there are countries, partners in this International Support Group, who have a genuine interest in supporting us in order to make sure that we will have a consolidated opposition and cohesive opposition group.

The moment we hear that – and we hope that will be in December; we will be aiming at that – then we will start immediately the issue about inclusive governance, the issue about a new constitution, the issue about elections – and real elections coming up; all that within a framework of 18 months, which is quite a challenge. But if we have this type of momentum and this type of support from everyone, it is doable.

Now, we are also very clearly indicated that the moment the beginning of this political process – not the end of it, the beginning of the political process – starts in earnest, we should be aiming in parallel for actually having a nationwide ceasefire, obviously excluding those who don’t want a ceasefire. You can imagine who they could be. If that is the case, that would be the first real message not only about another meeting which they’ve been waiting for, which is the meeting between Syrians and about serious things such as their future political scenario, but also about a reduction of violence.

The good thing about this International Support Group is that we’re having – and I believe you must coincide with me on that – we are starting seeing partners among them volunteering to actually help in actually taking on some of the leading beginning work. So we did hear that for instance Jordan, as you rightly said, is planning to assist us in order to come up with a proper analysis among other partners on what could the terrorist list.

The clear intention is to have a political process and negotiation connected with a ceasefire, the sooner the better. The secretary general has made today a strong statement supporting us and supporting and asking us to actually move forward. And we are hoping to have a Security Council meeting as well which will be indicating support to ceasefire and the political process.

So momentum is the key word and the momentum continued. And now is the test for us, for the UN, for all of us, to actually not give up on this. Thank you. Any questions?

SECRETARY KERRY: I can take a couple questions.

MR KIRBY: Thank you, gentlemen. Our first question today will come from Karen DeYoung,Washington Post.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, you indicated earlier that you’ve set aside your disagreement with Russia on President Assad’s future while you move toward talks on a transitional government. Some coalition members and virtually all of the opposition have said they’re not interested in participating in negotiations without assurances that Assad will have no role in Syria’s future.

Minister Lavrov, President Putin has said no one can demand Assad’s depa

If this is the case, how do you move forward along the lines you outlined? How confident are you that your efforts now to convince the Syrian opposition to compromise on this point will succeed?

And separately, President Assad today blamed the Paris attacks on what he called wrong policies adopted by the West, particularly but not exclusively France, and their support for terrorists fighting his regime. Secretary Kerry, how do you respond to that?

And Minister Lavrov, as Russia itself has recently been victim of an apparent terrorist attack tied to Syria, would you agree with President Assad’s assessment?

Thank you.



SECRETARY KERRY: Who did you say had said they were not interested? It’s news to me.

QUESTION: Many of the groups have said, and Saudi Arabia has said, other countries have said, that they would like some kind of statement on President Assad’s future and that they’re not interested in entering into a process unless that question is decided in advance.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there are some groups who feel that way. But Saudi Arabia is a partner in this communique and in the original communique, and they fully understand the rules of the road here, as do all the countries participating. The – one of the reasons this war is now four and a half years old is that for the first couple of years the policy of a number of countries, mine included, was Assad has to go first. And we went through a couple of iterations of so-called talks which were non-talks because Assad had no intention of negotiating at that point in time.

Now, we are told through our partners in this effort – and those at the table, that is – that he is prepared to be serious, prepared to send a delegation, prepared to engage in a real negotiation along the lines of the Geneva transition.

Now, the proof will be in the pudding. I’m not sitting here tonight and telling you that that’s exactly what will happen. I hope it will happen. I pray it will happen. Because if it doesn’t happen, this war won’t end. This war can’t end as long as Bashar Assad is there. That’s the perception of people waging the war. It’s not my perception. If I turned around today and said to you, “Hey, I’m okay, let’s go cut a deal and Assad can be there for a while longer,” guess what? The war won’t stop. No one will be there behind me following in that effort.

Why? Because over 300,000 people have been killed. Because people have been tortured. People have been barrel bombed. People have been gassed. People have been displaced. And it is the perception of many of the countries around the table that there is no way that Bashar al-Assad can be part of the long-term future of Syria because most of his country is in displaced people and many of them refugees, and they look back and see what has happened.

Now, not all of them are there exactly because of him, obviously, but the situation is such that he has become the magnet for the foreign fighters. People are coming from all over the world attracted to Daesh and Nusrah and whatever – but mostly Daesh, because of the fight against Assad. And that fight will continue. And the best way to solve this problem is for Bashar al-Assad to recognize that he could save his country by helping to be part of this transition and allow all of the countries in the region to join together and go defeat Daesh. That’s the game plan and it makes sense.

But everybody is coming to the table understanding that it is the organic Syrian-led, Syrian-participated-in political process that provides the best opportunity for Assad to make a decision or for the Syrians themselves to make it clear that he cannot continue. And everybody has accepted the idea that that’s not going to be dictated by us; it’s going to evolve in the context of these negotiations. And if it doesn’t, there won’t be peace. Now, our hope is that people will take advantage of this moment, obviously.

Now, with respect to Assad’s comments about other people’s policies being the result – of being responsible for Paris, I think that’s another reason why he is not fit to be the leader of his country, because he really doesn’t know how to tell the truth to the public. Daesh is there because Bashar al-Assad began Syria’s episode of the Arab Spring. When young people went out into the streets to demonstrate for jobs and opportunity, they were met by Assad’s thugs, who beat them up. And when their parents objected to the fact that their children had been beaten up for trying to demonstrate for jobs and opportunity, the parents went out and demonstrated and they were shot. And that’s when the bombs began. And it has grown.

Now, are there sectarian components to this? An honest answer has to say yes, those have grown in the process. And that is the danger of this current trend that we are on. It’s one of the reasons why I think the international community shares a sense of urgency. Sergey and I agree that the last thing we want to see is Daesh grow because of this. The last thing we want to see is Syria destroyed or incapable of being put together again as a unified country. We all value that.

And so the issue here is whether or not we will recognize what has happened to Syria in this process. Now, there are other aspects of it. Have outside people funded people in a way that’s allowed this to happen? Yes. This is very complicated. But make no mistake – anybody, please – Assad has cut his own deal with Daesh. They sell oil. He buys oil. They are symbiotic, not real enemies in this. And he has not, when he had a chance over four years, mounted his attacks against Daesh. The Daesh headquarters sat in Raqqa for years. It was never bombed by his bombs. It was children and women and hospitals and schools that were bombed by his bombs.

So that is the reality here. And I think for him to try to blame what happed in Paris on anybody other, particularly the West who is trying to save his country and save his people and who is the biggest single donor to the refugees that he has created in order to safeguard them, is beyond insanity. It’s insulting.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I would also like to answer the question addressed to me alongside with John. John has said that the pudding is –

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) As for the role of the person in the history, we had a couple of experiences with Saddam Hussein and Qadhafi, and people said that without those dictators the countries will prosper. I cannot agree therefore with the logic that Assad is the cause for everything. ISIS has not appeared three or four years ago. It is 10 years old.

And I am a little concerned about the phrase that John has just said, and if I quote correctly, that if Assad goes, then all the countries of the region will unite to defeat ISIS. The UN Security Council has confirmed many faults also in its obligatory decisions according to the Chapter 7 that terrorism cannot be justified by anything. And the Paris attacks have shown, alongside with ISIS claiming responsibility for it, that it doesn’t matter if you are for Assad or against him; ISIS is your enemy. So it’s not about Assad.

John has also talked about Obama’s goals for this region, and the number one goal was fighting ISIS and other terrorists, and only after that stabilization and political process. I vote with my both hands for that logic. And I also agree with that because some of our partners actually said that fighting terrorism should be connected and tied to political process.

As for the rumors about Assad and ISIS and their oil trade, I have discussed that today with John and other colleagues. While we all know these oil fields very well and who’s responsible for them, who produces oil, and where this oil is sent in Syria and outside of Syria in the region, but there was the resolution of the UN Security Council 2199, according to which all countries must break all connections with this oil trade and must report these violations to the UN Security Council. I am happy that we reiterated this resolution once again today.

The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS can put an end to this illegal oil trade. We have agreed again today that the Russian Federation is looking forward and it ready to cooperative in fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups with the U.S.-led coalition, as President Putin has said in his recent interview to the Turkish media.

Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I just mention on thing to build on what Sergey said quickly, though not asked, but I think it’s important. First of all, we are focused on the oil, and Sergey is correct that it has moved in unwanted directions inappropriately. And we are focused on that, and that’s why we did embrace in this communique today focus on the resolution that Sergey talked about.

But more importantly, I want to make sure that even as we have some disagreements about Assad, people understand that we are in agreement with respect to the process that we see unfolding here with respect to Assad and transition.

Sergey mentioned Iraq and he mentioned Libya, and we have no disagreement that those are not models. And that is specifically why we have come to the table together with all of our partner countries in order to try to negotiate a very orderly transition, a structured transition, one that maintains the structures of the state, which is one of the specific principles we embraced a week ago, that happens by consent so that it’s happening in a way that is organic to Syria, and therefore doesn’t interrupt the civil structures that are there to maintain society and provide stability.

So we’re all focused on stability, and we’re focused on a continuity with the exception, obviously, of one principal player, but some others I’m sure. And that’s what we’re going to have to struggle through over the course of these next weeks. But I think we’re all approaching this with a very good-faith effort to try to use the best of diplomacy, the best of Staffan and the UN, to try to see if that process can produce the change that is needed.

MR KIRBY: Next question comes from Olga Golovanova from Interfax.

QUESTION: Mr. Kerry, don’t you want that terror attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Iraq for the past few days give us and give you and U.S.-Russian relations enough basis for resuming in full our counterterrorism cooperation, which had been frozen by Washington unilaterally? And you had bilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov today. Have you discussed any measures that could be taken except one of incidents in Syria? Maybe you could offer exchange of intelligence data, or creation some channels for blocking financing of terrorism. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Olga.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: She doesn’t want to ask me; she believes you would be a better source. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (In Russian.)

SECRETARY KERRY: I think you’re a source available all the time; I’m not. (Laughter.)

I think that – we did talk about cooperation, and I have said for some period of time, as has President Obama, that cooperation makes a lot of sense. But we need to make certain of where we’re going with it and of exactly what the dynamics are with respect to the end game. We need to be certain, obviously, that the fight is the fight against ISIL/Daesh, against Nusrah, and not against the moderate opposition.

And Sergey and I talked about how we can work together now to try to make sure those intentions are clear and the choices that people are making are clear and coordinated. We, I think, discussed some options that we have available to us. I’m going to talk – I’ll be meeting President Obama tomorrow in Turkey at the G20. I will discuss those with our security team and with the President, and we’ll see if we can follow up in a way that does make sense.

Obviously, if we can cooperate and get the political process moving, it opens enormous possibilities for other cooperation which is much more effective and broader. But we have to come at this in a way that makes certain of what we’re both undertaking.

And the second piece, on the data and the intelligence and counterterrorism overall, I think it’s always better when all countries are cooperating and able to work together. Everybody knows that we’ve faced a few challenges. Foreign Minister Lavrov and I have worked hard to try to keep those challenges from getting in the way of important work that we’ve been able to do together. And so we’ve cooperated on the Iran nuclear agreement; we’ve cooperated on chemical weapons; we’ve cooperated in the UN on some things; and we’ve cooperated here. And our hope is that that can build a road ahead for us with this political process now to be able to do more. And we will test it carefully, and I’m confident both of us want to try to see if we can maximize the opportunity.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I would like to add a couple of words. Of course, we discussed it today and John has mentioned it. We are convinced that coordination is in the interests of us and all humanity. We should not allow terrorists to take over the region just because U.S., Russia, and the rest of the world cannot agree on some things.

The situation is truly complex due to intertwining political interests in the region and Syria. There are a lot more than two agendas. And this process that is launched here today allows us to clear the situation, to discuss things maybe not exactly friendly, but involve the stakeholders.

Fighting terrorism should not depend on any conditions; we are convinced on that. It’s good that Russian and U.S. military have contacts, at least in the field of preventing conflicts. We are for the deepest cooperation possible. Our president has reconfirmed that. U.S. has some issues with Russian operation, and we have questions to the coalition on how they are doing things.

Multiple times we have asked to sit down together to have a meaningful, specific conversation – with maps, with specific targets. We have asked our U.S. colleagues and other Western colleagues. We could clear all the concerns and ask questions what we are doing wrong. This type of dialogue has not yet taken place, and all these concerns and mutual questions can be cleared only through a direct dialogue.

MR DE MISTURA: Let me add one thing here, perhaps, that you can see how important it is, the issue about the ceasefire and of a political process connected with the ceasefire, because many issues about coalition and about who to target will be clarified. That’s why we are so eager to have both starting very soon. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all.

MR KIRBY: One more question. The last question is from Andreas Mitschitz from ORF TV.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, can you give us any details about the opposition groups which will be invited to the talks? Do you have anyone in mind? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible.) I have lots of people in mind. We want – well, to the degree that we – this is something that needs to be worked through with Staffan de Mistura and the United Nations and the various opposition entities. We are working within our group to try to do as much as we can to guarantee it is as broad-based, as diverse, as representative of all aspects of Syrian society and opposition, as possible. And I’m confident that the UN special envoy will keep that at the forefront of his mind. But – and Syrians will decide their own team out of that. They’ll pick their negotiators. They’ll pick their leadership team. And that’s as it ought to be, because we have said all along this is to be a Syrian process. It wouldn’t have credibility without that.

So all of the countries have submitted ideas, lists, names, et cetera. And I am quite confident that within a short span of time some sort of meeting will come together in order to try to meet Staffan’s goal of trying to get this going in December and our goal of getting the two parties together by January. Every day that goes by that we don’t have a ceasefire is a day too many, and the best way to get there is to get this political process moving as fast as possible. That’s what we’re committed to do.

MR DE MISTURA: Let me add one point on this. Sorry, because – (laughter) – because it’s a delicate issue. Among those countries who were sitting in the room today, most of them have an influence on opposition and on the government. So when we are asked to invite the opposition, well, we are counting, and we heard today, they will be supported by those countries who will have an influence on the opposition to actually attend those meetings. And the lists are there and we can work on that. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.

MR KIRBY: That concludes the press conference. Thank you, everybody.