Syria Stance Unchanged

Syria Stance UnchangedSyria Stance Unchanged

Iran did not compromise its stance in Friday's international talks on Syria in Vienna, the deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs says.

"In the early hours at the negotiating table, we learned of the release of some false news that Iran has agreed to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad leaving power within six months," said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who accompanied Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the talks.

"We made no concession in the meeting … In Friday's meeting, we loudly voiced the explicit and clear position already being followed by the Islamic Republic to let everyone know about it," he was quoted as saying by IRNA in an interview with state television on Saturday.

He was commenting on reports by foreign media that Iran's participation in the conference signaled a shift in its opposing stance to Assad stepping down as part of a political transition.

Differences over Assad's future role between his allies and opponents have complicated efforts to end the four-year Syria conflict.

While western countries and their allies seek his ouster, Iran and Russia insist that it should be subject to the decision of the Syrian people only.

It was the first time Iran attended such a conference aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the crisis plaguing Syria.

The meeting brought together top diplomats from 17 countries and their deputies as well as Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, and Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief.

Describing the talks as "challenging, difficult and complex," Amir-Abdollahian said, "Iran managed to push its framework and strategy on Syria at the negotiating table."

***Last Foothold


Asked to comment on the reasons behind Moscow's decision for direct involvement in Syria's war, the deputy foreign minister said Russian's support for Assad is strategically important because "as they have said themselves, Syria represents their last foothold in the Arab world."

"Fighting terrorism, [containing] the expansion of IS beyond Syria and [preventing] the return of terrorist groups to Central Asian and other countries are other concerns of Russians," he said.

Moscow launched airstrikes on Syria four weeks ago to target insurgents, a move that has deepened the divide with a US-led coalition that has been involved in the war since one year ago by providing support to what it describes as "moderate" rebel groups fighting IS terrorists.

"In the talks, we asked Syria's neighbors to prevent terrorists crossing into the war-ravaged Arab country and stressed that the anti-IS coalition should avoid acting unilaterally without coordination with the Syrian government," he added.