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Joint Press Conference by Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, May 2013

Speakers: John F. Kerry, and Sergey V. Lavrov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
Published May 7, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held this press conference after their meeting on May 7, 2013, focused primarily on U.S.-Russian cooperation in regards to Syria.

Excerpt from the press conference:

QUESTION: (Inaudible), anyway, why should the Syrian people have any more – why should the Syrian people have any more confidence today that what you have announced – hopes for a conference by the end of the month perhaps and a joint effort to try to encourage both sides to come to the table – is any more likely to stop the violence given how many deaths have occurred and given particularly that your view is that Assad must go. And why should the Assad government go to a negotiation that entails its own demise?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the – let me begin with the alternative. The alternative is that there's even more violence. The alternative is that Syria heads closer to an abyss, if not over the abyss, and into chaos. The alternative is that the humanitarian crisis will grow, and the alternative is that there may be even a breakup in Syria or ethnic attacks and ethnic cleansing and other results which threaten the stability of the region and challenge the conscience of good people everywhere in the world. That's the alternative.

Now, up until now, I think there has been a perception that Russia and the United States haven't been particularly on the same page of cooperating in this effort. So what I think is significant is that we are here to say that we are going to cooperate in trying to implement the Geneva communique, and I think our understanding of that communique is very similar, and there's actually more agreement even though our position has been that it's impossible for me as an individual to understand how Syria could possibly be governed in the future by the man who has committed the things that we know have taken place. But that's not – I'm not going to decide that tonight. And I'm not going to decide that in the end. Because the Geneva communique says that the transitional government has to be chosen by mutual consent by the parties. Who are the parties? The parties are the current regime and the opposition. So what we're going to undertake to do is to try to get them in a position where they, representing the people they represent – Syria and the interests they represent – put people into a transitional government by mutual consent.

Now I believe another thing is happening. I think a lot of people in the region and in the world are seeing this violence and frankly are really deeply concerned for the people of Syria and for the possibilities of peace, and that there will be a growing crescendo of nations who will want to push for a peaceful resolution rather than the chaos that comes with the breakup of the country and the continued battle, which can and will take place. Now it's obviously up to the regime to undertake a set of behavior – to undertake steps here to guarantee that they're not using chemical weapons, they're not inviting greater reactions than exist today. And we'll have to see how that plays out.

But I think that Sergey and I are both convinced that since Geneva is there and agreed on – the opposition went to Istanbul a week ago, two weeks ago, and in Istanbul they issued a set of declarations in which they signed on to, number one, support for the Geneva communique, support for a transitional government. They signed on to a set of standards which would prohibit any use of chemical weapons. They agreed to be inclusive and democratic and protect all minorities inside Syria. And so I think there's the basis here for the people of Syria to have confidence that if we can achieve a transitional government and ultimately end the violence, the people of Syria will decide the future of Syria. And I think that's what Sergey wants, that's what I want, and it's what President Putin and President Obama want, and that's what we're trying to implement.

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