The statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab marks the 10th anniversary of the world’s bloodiest ongoing conflict.
"The proposed Syrian Presidential election this year will neither be free nor fair, nor should it lead to any measure of international normalisation with the Syrian regime," the top diplomats said on Monday.
Syria is set to hold the presidential election in spring, per its constitution. President Bashar Assad told Sputnik in October that it was "early" for him to talk about his potential candidacy in the upcoming vote.
"Our nations commit to reinvigorating the pursuit of a peaceful solution which protects the rights and future prosperity of all Syrians, based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254," the diplomats said. "Clear progress towards an inclusive political process and an end to the repression of the Syrian people is essential. We cannot allow this tragedy to last another decade."
The diplomats also said Assad and his supporters "bear responsibility for the years of war and human suffering that followed."
They renewed calls for a nationwide ceasefire, unhindered aid access and an inclusive political process, promised support for efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in Syria and warned Damascus against non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied accusations of using toxic substances and insists that it has been repelling an aggression of international terrorists exacerbated by foreign powers’ military intervention.
"Clear progress towards an inclusive political process and an end to the repression of the Syrian people is essential. We cannot allow this tragedy to last another decade," they said vowing also to continue supporting UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen’s efforts.
Speaking on Monday, Pedersen called for the establishment of a new international format to resolve the conflict in Syria with the participation of the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Arab League countries, the European Union and the remaining permanent members of the UN Security Council.
At a UN Security council meeting earlier in the day, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said a key precondition in the peace settlement is the cessation of foreign occupation and military activities which have not been approved by the legitimate government in Damascus. The Russian ambassador said another condition that needed to be fulfilled was respect for Syria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
#Nebenzia: Intra-Syrian negotiations constitute an internal affair of #Syria|ns that does not tolerate any artificial deadlines or external pressure. We stand ready to further support Special Envoy @GeirOPedersen in establishing constructive contacts between the Syrian🇸🇾 sides. pic.twitter.com/G0rAuBHaFa— Russian Mission UN (@RussiaUN) March 15, 2021
The Russian diplomat has also repeatedly said that the Western countries are using the chemical weapons case against Syria as an instrument to punish what the Western countries view as "undesirable authorities" in Damascus. Moreover, Nebenzia has pointed out that while almost every month Syria provides information about terrorists planning chemical weapons provocations, such data is not reflected in the OPCW documentation.
Syria has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011, with numerous armed opposition factions and terrorist groups fighting the government of President Bashar Assad. The US-led intervention in the Syrian conflict began in 2014 with a stated goal to defeat Daesh*.
Russia deployed troops to Syria in 2015 at the request of the Syrian government to assist it in fighting the terrorists.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia and many other states