UN Urges Flexibility in Syrian Talks

UN Urges Flexibility in Syrian Talks UN Urges Flexibility in Syrian Talks

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for “flexibility” at talks in Vienna between the countries backing rival sides in the Syrian civil war.

He urged the five main participants—the US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey—to abandon “national perspectives” for “global leadership”.

These are the first such talks to include Iran which, along with Russia, backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, BBC reported.

The four-year-old war in Syria, which began with an uprising against Assad, has left 250,000 people dead and forced half the country’s population, or 11 million people, from their homes.

Russia has recently stepped up its military involvement in the conflict, backing forces loyal to Assad.

The US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab nations have long insisted Assad cannot play any long-term role in Syria’s future.

On the eve of the talks, Ban urged the five main participants to think beyond their immediate interests.

“The longer they take their own national perspectives, the more people will suffer and the whole world will suffer,” he said. “As I always say, there is no military solution.”

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir earlier told the BBC that Iran must accept the removal of Assad as part of any solution to the conflict.

Jubeir said that there was “no doubt” Assad could not remain in office.

“He will go either through a political process or he will be removed by force,” he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that other powers had realized that “a reasonable solution” to the Syrian conflict could not be reached without involving Tehran.

Foreign ministers held informal talks in Vienna on Thursday, with the substantive discussions scheduled for Friday.

Speaking after meeting Zarif, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the Vienna talks would bring together “all the relevant actors playing around the same table, trying to define a common space for the beginning of a political process”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also met Zarif on Thursday, as well as the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Foreign ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Egypt, Lebanon and the EU have also confirmed they will attend the meeting, and other Middle Eastern powers are also expected.

A Western diplomat called the Vienna talks “embryonic”, while another said that simply keeping opposing sides from walking out would count as success.