MESOP NEWS : HOW LONG CAN ASSAD STAY ? – Tehran Maintains Cautious Line Over Syria Talks & Assad’s Position

January 15 – eaworldview – Scott Lucas – Maneuvering between the Assad regime and its relations with Russia and Turkey, Iran is maintaining a cautious line on proposed forthcoming talks on Syria’s crisis.In Tehran’s latest move, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari spoke by telephone conversation with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad on Saturday.The call followed Friday’s consultations between Ansari and Turkish and Russian counterparts in Moscow on Friday, and President Hassan Rouhani’s call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday.

Russia and Turkey, formerly on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, have reconciled to pursue a deal over Aleppo city and Aleppo Province, a nominal ceasefire, and proposed regime-opposition talks in Kazahstan by the end of January.

Iran, along with Russia the essential backer of the Assad regime since 2011, is more sceptical of the talks. Tehran has insisted that Bashar al-Assad’s future is a “red line” that must not be crossed, despite the opposition’s insistence that the President step aside in any agreement. Turkey — formerly a major backer of the opposition and rebels — has publicly maintained that Assad must depart at the end of the transition, but Russia has reserved its position.

Iranian State media gave no clue about Tehran’s latest line, saying Ansari and Miqdad “exchanged views about the latest developments prior to the Astana negotiations between representatives from the Damascus government and foreign-sponsored opposition groups…on January 23”. Press TV added that “Jaberi Ansari and Miqdad said Tehran and Damascus must help find a political solution to the Syria crisis”.