Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions at a joint news conference following the meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit

July 5, 2017

Question: The recent developments around Raqqa suggested to some that it is related to the higher level of US representation at the Astana process. Is this link correct? Will the current round become decisive at least as regards de-escalation zones?
Sergey Lavrov: Honestly, I don’t see a direct link here. Moreover, the level of US representation at the Astana talks was raised much earlier. The Americans were invited as observers at the first rounds and were represented in Astana by their ambassador. Then this level was raised to a State Department official – Acting Assistant Secretary Stuart Jones – who represents the United States at the current Astana round. Special Presidential Representative for Syria and Chargé d'Affaires Alexander Lavrentyev who heads our delegation commented on expectations from this round. The round began yesterday and continues today. We hope for real progress in determining concrete geographical borders of the de-escalation zones and parameters linked with their functioning. The current talks will show this. For the time being they are still going on.