Iran welcomes facilitation of dialog with no preconditions in Syria
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the international community is becoming more “realistic” about facilitating dialog between the Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition groups “without setting preconditions.”
“I think what’s important is for the international community to try to facilitate a dialog among Syrians rather than to try to dictate the terms of that dialog,” Zarif said in an interview with al-Monitor following a UN Security Council meeting on Syria in New York on Friday.
Zarif said for the “nightmare” in Syria to vanish, “you need to start negotiating, and through the negotiation process, achieve the outcome; not achieve the outcome before the negotiation process.”
“It’s not kicking the can down the road, but rather being realistic,” he added.
The negotiating sides have “disagreements” on the list of terrorists in Syria and the ways to resolve the conflict and form a national unity government through diplomacy, the Iranian foreign minister said.
“We have disagreements about who [the] terrorists are. Unfortunately, reincarnations of al-Qaeda, Daesh and al-Nusra Front are being used by some of our friends and neighbors as oppositions rather than as terrorists. So that is something to be sorted out.”
Some countries, he said, continue to believe that the crisis should be settled through a military approach.
“I think that’s an illusion. Of course there has to be a military element to this, but it has to be a political solution,” the Iranian minister said.
The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution to endorse an international bid to end the nearly five-year-long crisis in Syria.
The resolution calls for Syria peace talks on a transitional government to begin in early January. It also calls for a nationwide ceasefire in the war-torn country.
According to the resolution, a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian” government should be established in Syria within six months and UN-supervised “free and fair elections” should be held within 18 months.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif confirmed “sideline bilateral conversations” between Iran and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks but he said the interactions were “brief.”
“There have been some short conversations, very welcomed though,” the Iranian minister said, adding, “And I’ve had a couple of exchanges with my Saudi counterpart [Adel al-Jubeir]. Iran’s ambassador has had a couple of exchanges in the yard.”
He expressed hope such an interaction will be a good beginning “but that’s not even near where we should be.”
“We have always been ready to engage with our neighbors and we believe that our neighbors are our priority. And once our Saudi friends are ready to engage in serious dialog, they will find Iran to be … ready,” Zarif said.
The conflict in Syria started in March 2011 and it has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or out of its borders.
The first two rounds of talks on Syria were held in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on October 30 and November 14.