No place for terrorists in Syria’s future: Iran
The Islamic Republic has dismissed a Saudi-hosted conference attended by Syria militant groups and so-called opposition figures, warning that terrorists will not be allowed to decide about the future of Syria.
“We do not approve of the Riyadh meeting,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in Tehran on Thursday. “Terrorists will never be allowed to present themselves as moderate opposition and formulate the future of Syria and the region.”
Stressing that some groups linked to Daesh Takfiri terrorists attended the conference, he said the United Nations is responsible for identifying who constitutes opposition or terrorist.
The two-day Riyadh event started on Wednesday in an attempt to unify so-called Syria opposition groups before potential negotiations with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a statement issued at the end of the Riyadh meeting, the participants agreed to negotiate with the Damascus government but insisted President Assad must step down at the start of a political transition set out last month in Vienna.
The participants are ready to negotiate with representatives of the Syrian government “within a specific time frame that would be agreed on with the United Nations,” the statement read, adding, however, that the Syrian President and his aides must “quit power with the start of the transition period.”
Last week, Amir-Abdollahian had warned against any “sideline talks” outside the provisions of the recent agreement reached in Vienna on the crisis in Syria.
Division in Riyadh talks
Separately on Thursday, Ahrar al-Sham, a terrorist group operating in Syria, announced that it had withdrawn from the Riyadh conference, citing “the fundamental role… given to personalities” linked to the government of President Assad at the event.
The militant group, which is allied with the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, further stressed that it “rejects the outcomes” of the meeting.
The move came as two rounds of international talks on the conflict in Syria, attended by Iran, were held in the Austrian capital, on October 30 and November 14.
At the end of the mid-November round of the Vienna negotiations, the participants agreed to meet again in “approximately one month” to review progress toward a ceasefire and the start of a political process in Syria.
Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the fresh talks on the conflict and diplomats said the negotiations were likely to be held in New York on December 18.
On Wednesday, Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, also said that the UN as well as Russia and the United States will hold talks in the Swiss city of Geneva on December 11 as part of the preparatory work for the new round of international negotiations on the crisis in Syria.
In another relevant development on Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that there was still no agreement among world powers on the lists of the Syrian opposition and terrorist groups.
“Unfortunately, the tempo of this work on the list of the opposition which could be presented in talks with Damascus, as well as on the list of terrorists, is not at the speed … which was presumed after the Vienna meetings,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
The foreign-backed militancy in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has left over 250,000 people dead.