May 18 – 2016 – by Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Reflecting the lack of progress in Tuesday’s international meeting on the Syrian crisis, Iran has blamed “governments in the region and outside the region” supporting “terrorists” for the five-year conflict.
Tehran, which has stepped up its military intervention behind the Assad regime since last October, was one of the 17 countries in the gathering of the International Syria Support Group. The meeting called for a renewal of the February 27 “cessation of hostilities” and for the Assad regime to allow aid into besieged areas.
However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif acknowledged that the session ended without “any groundbreaking” developments, although he asserted that importance lay in the “general consensus that we need to expand the cessation of hostilities to include all of Syria”.
With the collapse of the ceasefire in northwest Syria, Iran is in a difficult position. Russian and regime airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians, particularly in and near Aleppo city, but they have failed to check advances by rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo and other provinces. Those advances have inflicted significant casualties on Iranian units, who are leading the pro-Assad campaign on the southern Aleppo front.
Zarif began on Tuesday with a diplomatic gesture towards the ISSG members, including Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia, who supports the Syrian rebels.
However, he then turned on the Saudis and other supporters of the opposition-rebel bloc, using the pretext of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is excluded from the cessation of hostilities:
The most important loopholes were the fact that al-Nusra, which is a major terrorist organization operating in many areas that are now undergoing serious humanitarian catastrophe, continues to be collaborating with various groups that have been supported by governments in the region and outside the region and there is a need to once and for all deal with that.
The Foreign Minister did not refer to the obstacles to political progress, including President Assad’s refusal of any transitional governing authority and the Syrian regime’s refusal of aid into besieged areas. Instead, he repeated Tehran’s stock line about support of “Syrians”:
It’s a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led process. People here are supposed to help…not to dictate to the Syrian people and this is what we have been pointing out time and again.
Zarif met other diplomats on the sidelines of the conference, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, and Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi. However, he did not see his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir. www.mesop.de