US envoy says Russia has enough leverage in Syrian conflict

TASS Russian News Agency | Aug 14, 2020 at 1:18 AM

NEW YORK, August 14. /TASS/. Russia has enough leverage in the Syrian conflict, US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey said at a briefing.

"We believe that Russia has enough leverage. Russia was key to this conflict," he pointed out. "Iran was much involved in Syria up to 2015, and even with Iranian help Assad could not stop the opposition gaining ever more territory. It was the entry of Russian forces, specifically air forces, into the conflict in late 2015 that turned the tide. That is still the situation," Jeffrey added. "Assad's survival is totally the work of Russia, thus we expect Russia to deliver Assad to the negotiating table," he pointed out.

"We have many times offered to cooperate more with the Russian authorities on bilateral efforts to - not bilateral efforts, but basically to coordinate with them on our own efforts to deal with ISIS [the Islamic State terror organization - TASS] in those other areas, and we'll continue to see what we can do," the US envoy noted.

"In fact, our policy isn't regime change, our policy is a change in behavior of whoever is governing in Damascus," Jeffrey said.

When speaking about a meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which is expected to take place in Geneva on August 24, Jeffrey said that "a safe and neutral environment such as Geneva is very, very important to move forward." The next step "is a free and fair election under UN supervision involving all Syrians," he added.

Syrian constitutional committee

In January 2018, participants in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, decided to establish a constitutional committee that would work on the country's new constitution.

The 150-member committee includes representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, as well as civil society members. The committee held its first meeting in Geneva on October 30, 2019. A group of 45 experts appointed by the committee met twice in November.