MESOP FOCUS SYRIA-KURDISTAN : Tehran & Russia Proclaim Unity Over Syria

by Scott Lucas – 6 Febr 2017 – eaworldview – With another round of political talks approaching over Syria’s six-year crisis, Iran and Russia proclaimed a unified line on Sunday. The two countries, who are the essential backers of the Assad regime, put out the message in a meeting between Russian special envoy Alexander Lavrentiev and Iran’s Secretary of the National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran remains committed to pursuing a political solution to put an end to the Syria crisis and believes that a military solution will work only in dealing with groups that refrain from laying down their weapons,” Shamkhani said. The official used the distinction to point to continued use of force, saying that the Syrian conflict cannot be resolved through political approaches while “terrorist groups” such as the Islamic State and the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham are in the country.

Although allied behind the Syrian regime, there has been tension between Iran and Russia in recent months over the political and military strategy. Tehran has shown some resistance to a pause in military operations. The Islamic Republic has also insisted on a “red line” over Assad’s future, while Russia has been cautious about the possibility that the President could step aside while the regime remains in a settlement.

However, there was no sign of division in statements about forthcoming talks in Geneva on February 20. The discussions, brokered by Russia and Turkey and involving both the regime and an opposition-rebel bloc, were renewed on January 23-24 in the Kazakhstan capital Astana. “Undoubtedly, if these countries [that support terrorists] do not change their conduct, they will not be able to play a constructive role in the political process for determining the future of the region,” Shamkhani asserted. According to Iranian State media, Lavrentiev said “his country [will] continue its cooperation with Iran and Syria in the fight against terrorists and the groups refusing to commit to a political solution to the Syrian crisis” and “reaffirmed Moscow’s support for Tehran’s constructive role in the campaign for the establishment of peace in Syria”.