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SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very happy to welcome the high representative for the European Community here today. And I’m going to say a few words about the EU and what we’re doing here today, and Federica in a moment.
But before I do get started, I just want to share a quick update on Syria, because we have been working continually together with our teams in Geneva as well as with the Russians, and I want to report on where we are now. We just announced a short time ago as part of our urgent efforts to try to de-escalate the violence in Syria and reaffirm the cessation of hostilities, which is critical, that the United States and Russia have now concluded arrangements with our teams late yesterday evening to reaffirm a cessation of hostilities in Aleppo province, including Aleppo city and its surrounding areas.
Now, this went into effect at midnight today – early today, midnight of this morning – and local time in Syria. And since then, we’ve seen an overall decrease in the violence in those areas, even though there are some reports of continued fighting in some locations, which does not surprise us because it only went into effect one minute after midnight, and we have to communicate and we are working at that process of communication. I had a conversation with Staffan de Mistura who was in Berlin earlier meeting with Dr. Hijab, the head of the HNC, and we communicated directly to them what the status is so they can communicate to the parties.
Now, to ensure that this continues in a stable – in a sustainable way, we are coordinating closely with Russia to finalize the enhanced monitoring efforts of this renewed cessation. As I said earlier this week in Geneva with Staffan de Mistura, that we and Russia have agreed that there will be additional personnel, who already are together on the ground working in Geneva, who will try to strengthen our ability in order to be able to enforce this mechanism. We’re also in very close contact with our partners, one of whom is standing to my right now, and throughout Europe as we work to solidify this. We expect all the parties to the cessation of hostilities to fully abide by the renewed cessation in Aleppo. That means the regime and the opposition alike. And we also expect them to live by the cessation throughout the country, pursuant to the terms that were arrived at and agreed upon in Munich in February of this year.
Now, we want to repeat that attacks on Syria’s civilian population are never to be tolerated, and we look to Russia as a co-chair of the International Syria Support Group to help press – or not help, but to press since they have the strongest relationship, apparently, with the regime – to press them for the regime’s compliance with this effort. And the United States will do its part with respect to the opposition, as will all the other members of the International Syria Support Group.
So following the regime’s overnight airstrikes against Eastern Ghouta, we welcome today’s reaffirmation of the cessation in Eastern Ghouta for the next 48 hours. And if we can get it done in the next 48 hours, obviously it is our hope to be able to extend that, but we are testing this very carefully on a specifically timed basis. As I said yesterday, as we work to get the cessation back on track, we also are continuing to work to obtain the full, sustained humanitarian access to Syria which the Assad regime committed to do. And it’s important that they follow through on that commitment.
To date, the regime has consciously and unacceptably blocked food and medical supplies from getting to people in desperate need, and I think it is clear that humanitarian organizations must be allowed access to serve the people who are in need.
So we will continue to work to de-escalate the violence all across Syria in hopes of being able to move back to the talks as soon as people have a confidence that this is really taking hold, and that we have laid the groundwork for the ability to be able to go back. And we hope to have an International Syria Support Group meeting somewhere within the next two weeks in order to help accelerate, facilitate the process. Most importantly, we need to get to the discussion that every party agreed to regarding the Geneva communique of 2012, and indeed, to have a transitioning governing body in Syria that can begin to provide stability to the people of that beleaguered country.
Now, let me just say that I am really delighted to be meeting with Federica Mogherini here. She has been a stalwart, unbelievably helpful partner in the efforts that we have been engaged in across the board. On Ukraine, steadily working towards the implementation of the Minsk agreement, as well as the protection of the sovereignty of Ukraine itself; on Syria, helping as a key partner in the International Syria Support Group; on Yemen; on Middle East peace; on the efforts to deal with the incredible challenge of migration of refugees coming into Europe, which has threatened Europe in many different ways; on refugees across the board; also for Syria, for Lebanon, for Turkey – the EU is our partner, and in so many ways, we would not be able to do many of the things that we are working on.
And in addition, we are all very grateful in the P5+1 for Federica’s personal engagement and involvement in helping not only to get to closure on the Iran nuclear agreement but to implement it now and to be a partner in the effort to guarantee that on that front we are all living up to our responsibilities.
So it’s a pleasure to have her in Washington. I look forward to our conversations this afternoon.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: Thank you, John. Just a few words to thank you for receiving me again here in Washington. People will start saying I’m more in Washington than Brussels, which is a pleasure.
And to start from Syria, just to underline that results that your leadership in coordination with the Russian co-chair of the group on the cessation of hostilities is vital for so many people inside Syria that it is simply something we cannot lose. And the work that you have been doing, you and your teams, to restore that cessation of hostilities in these hours is crucial for us Europeans as well. My deputy is presently with Staffan de Mistura and Hijab meeting, exactly put across that same message. And you know well that the European Union will continue to work on the ground for the delivery of humanitarian aid wherever it is possible working with our counterparts in the region and inside Syria to make sure that the access is real to all parts of the country that need humanitarian assistance, and obviously, to work together also on the talks in Geneva to start with some substance that allows a transition and a change in governance. We are partners in this as well as we are partners, as you said, on all the other big issues that are so relevant for Americans and Europeans alike.
I was impressed listening to the words of President Obama in Europe last week reminding us Europeans how many things we’ve done together, and most of them fall under our foreign policy efforts together – from the Iran deal on which we are working hard – also me personally on the implementation – but also the climate change agreements that was made possible because Europe and America were strongly united in this and creating consensus to the SDGs, to the management of the big crisis we have all around Europe, from Ukraine, to Syria, to Libya. We value our partnership so much.
Today, we also have the U.S.-EU energy dialogue that constitute big part of our relationship that goes far beyond foreign policy and covers, again, energy, climates, economy, trade, so much. But this just to say eight years ago, I think I remember well the night in Chicago where President Obama was elected. He was saying that there were some alliances to restore. I think that that is exactly what we have wonderfully worked on, and it’s such an important and valuable thing to work together, and it’s also a pleasure. So thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Federica, very, very much. Thank you.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Want to grab the book?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary. Mr. Secretary, what —
SECRETARY KERRY: I can’t do any questions. I am so late, I cannot tell you. We have five minutes before the meeting starts and we haven’t even had our bilat.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the assurances from Russia?
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.