Iran’s powerful parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, has reaffirmed Tehran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and criticized the United States for its “interference” in Syria, including regarding the Islamic State group.
Speaking on December 21 during an official visit to Damascus, Larijani reiterated Tehran’s position that the United States and its Western allies were “providing support to the terrorists” in Syria. Like Assad’s other major ally, Russia, Iran asserts that all of the armed opposition groups in Syria, including the Western-backed moderate Free Syrian Army, are illegal terrorist groups.
“Why is it that in every state in which the U.S. interfered, a terror movement would emerge at a later time,” Syrian state news agency SANA’s English service quoted Larijani as asking -- a reference to the Islamic State group in Syria.
Larijani also reaffirmed Iran’s support for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, saying that “almost all” Western and Arab countries were “working to provide a political solution to the crisis” and noting that Russia was pushing for an initiative to solve the Syrian crisis.
The Iranian parliamentary speaker’s visit to Damascus came less than two weeks after Assad met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Following that meeting, Bogdanov said that Moscow was hoping to relaunch peace talks and suggested that a preliminary meeting between Syria and the United States could take place in Moscow.
The last round of peace talks, held in Switzerland in February, broke down after Syrian government representatives insisted Assad must remain in power, while the opposition Syrian SNC maintained that any transitional government must not include Assad.
In recent weeks, Moscow has begun to make a push for the talks to be revived and has also expressed its support for a truce in Aleppo based on the plan put forward by the UN’s special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who said in November that the shared threat of Islamic State could promote truce measures between Damascus and rebels.
Assad told Larijani on December 21 that the Syrian government is working on “reconciliations” -- local truces between rebels and government forces -- in an effort to end the civil war.
While Damascus and its allies have strongly opposed the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts to combat Islamic State in Syria, the Assad government has insisted that its forces are active and successful in fighting “terrorism” throughout the country.
Referring to Assad’s comments to Larijani, Syrian state media said that the Syrian president had “emphasized the Syrian people’s determination to eradicate terrorism.”
Yury Ushakov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on December 22 that while Moscow is maintaining contacts with Damascus, no specific plan has yet been put in place for Assad to visit Moscow.
“We have maintained working contacts with the Syrian leadership, but a particular plan for the visit of the Syrian president has not yet been worked out,” Ushakov said.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk