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McGurk: One Week On and U.S.-Russian Brokered Cease-fire in Syria Is Holding

July 14, 2017 (EIRNS)—Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIS, in answers to reporters’ questions at the State Department yesterday, stressed that the U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire in southwest Syria is holding, and that Russian cooperation with the U.S. is a major factor in cooling the conflict in Syria down.

McGurk was conciliatory towards Russia throughout his remarks, particularly with respect to cooperation on the de-escalation zones.

"What we are trying to do [in Syria] is make sure that in areas in which we are operating, in which forces we are working with, we have de-confliction arrangements in place so that the territory there’s a clear delineation of territory so we don’t have incidents like happened a few weeks ago where we shot down a Syrian plane,"

he said.

"So we are working very hard with the Russians on those types of arrangements, and we’re actually fairly encouraged by what’s happening there."

For the first of several times, he stressed that the U.S.-Russia brokered ceasefire is holding in southwest Syria and that people are actually returning to their homes.

"And what we want to do is get things in place in Syria—if you think in phases, if we’re in phase one, we want to defeat ISIS and make sure that they are not holding territory anymore, no longer a threat to us—defeat ISIS and de-escalate the overall civil war. And that’s through—in arrangements of ceasefires, of de-confliction areas, so you can then begin a real, credible process to actually have a political settlement."

On the matter of a second cease-fire arrangement, which President Trump had referenced in remarks in Paris, McGurk said that the U.S. objective is to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity. He noted that the Russians have said that they are willing to put monitors on the ground in the southwestern zone.

"And since we shot down that Syrian plane, by necessity given what that plane was doing, we have had very constructive discussions military-to-military discussions... with the Russians about de-confliction arrangements. So I was in Tabqa a couple weeks ago, and just south of Tabqa—about 15 kilometers or so—is a de-confliction line that is holding quite well. And those are the types of arrangements we want to get in place to just bring some more stability to Syria,"

he said.

"So I think the President’s referring to a very constructive discussion that he had with the Russians and building from this southwest agreement."

Later, McGurk emphasized again that Syrian army operations in a part of Suwayda province where ISIS still has a presence, have not affected the cease-fire zone in the populated areas of that province.

"I would say right now the spirit of the ceasefire agreement is holding," he said.