Iran Steps Up Efforts to Defuse Syria Conflict

National Desk
Iran Steps Up Efforts to Defuse Syria ConflictIran Steps Up Efforts to Defuse Syria Conflict

Iran has held intensive consultations with key international players to help defuse the Syrian conflict, days ahead of a meeting between the US and Russia to resume the search for a political resolution.

The crisis, now in its sixth year, has seen a relentless battle between the Syrian Army and foreign-backed militants struggling to overthrow the establishment, which has left at least 300,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held a telephone conversation on Syria with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Thursday, IRNA reported.

Zarif said Iran considers a stronger fight with terrorist groups, an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and an inclusive political agreement to the impasse as the main priorities in Syria.

It was their second phone discussion in two days.

Russia and Iran both back the Syrian government's fight against its opponents, including the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and militants armed and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

A US-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria expired after a week on September 19, without any extension.

The Syrian government refused to extend the truce, which in the first place was opposed by some militant groups, and resumed efforts to take eastern neighborhoods of the second biggest Syrian city, Aleppo, from militants.

Moscow later accused the US of not honoring its obligation to separate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Al-Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra Front) and other extremist groups from the "moderate rebels" that enjoy the US support, and said continued violations of the ceasefire made it "senseless" for Syria to stick to the agreement.

Washington said the Russian air force and the Syrian Army are to blame for the collapse of the deal and suspended bilateral contacts with Moscow over Syria, and later said it is considering military options.

*** New Diplomatic Drive

Zarif also discussed the problem with EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, on Thursday.

A Russian special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, was also in Tehran this week to discuss the situation in the Arab country with high-ranking Iranian officials.

The Russian official met Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and the Leader's advisor on international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati.

Lavrentiev's visit came days after Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari visited the UN office at Geneva and the EU's capital, Brussels, to discuss Syria.

Russia's Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in Switzerland on Oct. 15 to discuss the Syria crisis, saying the two diplomats are going to consider what further steps could be taken to get a Syria settlement.

Reuters has reported that foreign ministers from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran will also participate in the talks. This is while IRIB News reported an informed Iranian source as saying on Wednesday that Zarif has no plans to take part in the Lausanne meeting.

The fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been a sticking point in previous attempts to achieve a resolution.

The US and its regional allies have been insisting that the removal of Assad is the necessary requirement for any solution, while Tehran and Moscow say the Syrian nation is the only side that should decide Syria's future.

Recent signals by Turkey that it may agree with Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in power for a transitional period has raised hopes for a solution.


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