Zarif: ISSG Pursuing Comprehensive Syria Ceasefire

Zarif: ISSG Pursuing  Comprehensive Syria CeasefireZarif: ISSG Pursuing  Comprehensive Syria Ceasefire

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Mohammad Javad Zarif the international conference on Syria aims to provide an opportunity to establish a "comprehensive ceasefire" in the five-year-old civil war in the Arab country.

Representatives from Iran, the US, Russia, China, regional and European powers and the Syrian government and opposition groups attended the meeting, the latest since the start of an international drive at the end of last October to stop the protracted conflict.

The conflict has so far claimed over 250,000 lives and displaced millions of Syrians.

The17 countries and three international bodies involved, known as the International Syria Support Group, agreed in a November meeting on a roadmap outlining a peace process that envisaged a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to establish a unity government and hold elections.

A "cessation of hostilities" in place since late February has been strained to breaking point by frequent violations, which each side blames on the other. It does not include the terrorist IS or Al-Qaeda-linked groups.      

Iran, along with Russia, has been supporting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in their fight against armed insurgent groups that enjoy the backing of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and western states.

“Well, we’re all going to continue to insist on the need for a comprehensive ceasefire, of course, excluding terrorist groups, and a comprehensive humanitarian assistance to all Syrians, not only to a specific group in Syria but to all [those in] besieged areas,” Zarif said.

“This is absolutely necessary because of the situation in Syria,” the top diplomat was quoted as telling reporters upon his arrival in the Austrian capital to attend the talks, IRNA reported.

“The meeting is an opportunity to stress the necessity of full adherence to the ceasefire” by all parties involved, he added.

Zarif met separately with officials from ISSG parties on the sidelines of the conference, including UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the top Australian diplomat Julie Bishop.