IRANIAN and Russian naval forces have practised anti-piracy operations, during which they rescued two hijacked merchant vessels, on the second day of their joint naval manoeuvres in the Sea of Oman and the northern part of the Indian Ocean.
According to the manoeuvres’ spokesman, Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani, the commercial ships sent distress signals to the Chabahar port’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), before a Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King helicopter of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy flew over the area and surveyed it.
Tahani added Iran’s fully-indigenous Jamaran destroyer was then deployed to the area, and the participating warships were assigned with the liberation operation in two groups of Iranian and Russian units.
He said commandos with the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as well as their Russian counterparts rappelled down onto the deck of the hijacked ship, captured pirates and liberated the vessel as outlined in the scenario.
Tahani went on to say that the scenarios included capture of pirates, extinguishing the fire caused by the pirates to delay the rescue operation, treatment of wounded and injured sailors on board, and finally the successful berthing of the merchant vessel with the help of a tugboat.
Two-day Maritime Security Belt naval drills bear a message of ‘peace and friendship’ for the regional nations, with the slogan of ‘collective cooperation at sea towards securing naval trade’.
The event covers a 17,000-kilometre-wide maritime expanse. It enlists naval units from Iran’s Navy and the IRGC Navy together with their back-up squadrons as well as a Russian flotilla comprising the Stoiky corvette, the KoLa refuelling ship, and a support helicopter gunship.
On the first day, Iranian and Russian naval forces put their firepower on display. They unleashed fire on designated targets and practised squaring up in offensive formations in light of the regional threats.
Iran’s Army and the IRGC have conducted several drills in the past two months, in a show of power amid tensions with the United States.
These exercises saw a variety of locally manufactured long-range missiles, drones, tanks, warships, submarines and helicopters tested on land, sea and air targets.
- The United States Navy meanwhile says it has sailed a warship near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Russell, with hundreds of US military personnel aboard, sailed near the Chinese-claimed Spratly Islands.
The move marked the latest attempt by the administration of US President Joe Biden to supposedly challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
It was the second such act of provocation under Biden. Earlier this month, two American carrier groups conducted a joint exercise near the Chinese-claimed Paracel Islands.
The US Navy claimed it ‘conducted a multitude of exercises aimed at increasing inter-operability between assets as well as command and control capabilities’, adding that through those exercises, the Navy ‘asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law’.
China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei all have overlapping claims to disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Washington has been taking sides with the claimants opposed to Beijing in the disputes.
China has repeatedly protested against the US military presence in and around the areas under its control. Beijing accuses Washington of seeking to create tensions in the region and interfering in its internal affairs.
Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping in their first telephone conservation told US President Joe Biden that a confrontation between China and the United States would be a ‘disaster’ and that the two countries should resolve matters between them peacefully.
President Xi insisted that cooperation between Beijing and Washington was the ‘only choice’.
‘The two countries should work together, meet each other half way … focus on cooperation, manage differences, and promote the healthy and stable development of China-US relations,’ Xi said.
- Iran, Russia and Turkey have launched a new round of negotiations in the Astana format between Syrian government delegates and representatives of foreign-sponsored opposition groups, months after the intra-Syrian peace talks were called off amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 15th meeting of senior experts from the three guarantor nations of the Syrian peace process kicked off in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Tuesday, with a UN delegation in attendance.
The two-day international meeting discussed issues such as Syria’s Constitutional Committee, the Damascus government’s sovereignty over the entire Syrian territories, reconstruction of war-ravaged areas, return of Syrian refugees, exchange of prisoners as well as ways to counter US and Western sanctions.
The talks are known as the Astana process, because Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan, formerly called Astana, originally hosted the meetings.
The Astana talks resulted in two agreements.
A first deal was signed in Kazakhstan’s capital, arranging for the creation of de-escalation zones across Syria, including in parts of Idlib. The second one that came about in Sochi allowed Ankara to bring in a small number of forces to man the observation posts to reinforce de-escalation.
While the two deals have helped significantly reduce fighting in Syria, the conflict has not entirely ended, due in large part to the Turkish failure to separate terrorists from what it calls ‘moderate’ opposition groups in Idlib and Ankara’s dispatch of thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into the Syrian province to back the militants.
President Assad and a senior Iranian diplomat have stressed the need for non-interference in Syria’s constitutional talks.
‘Iran, Russia and Turkey are determined to strengthen cooperation within the Astana format in order to establish and preserve peace and stability in Syria,’ Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow, Kazem Jalali said.
Russia’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, also said participants in Syria peace talks in Sochi are considering ways to counter the adverse consequences of unilateral US and Western sanctions against Syria.
‘Syria is currently experiencing severe political and economic isolation, which makes it difficult for the negotiation process to proceed on an equal footing. Therefore, we are discussing mechanisms to confront US and Western states’ sanctions against Syria,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the United States has declined Russia’s invitation to send a representative to the meeting.
‘Russia sent an invitation to the United States to participate in the Sochi talks, but Washington rejected the offer,’ Lavrentiev noted.
Russia has emphasised Tehran-Moscow cooperation to resolve the Syrian crisis.
Separately, the Iranian delegation to the Sochi meeting, led by Ali Asghar Khaji, the Iranian foreign minister’s senior assistant for political affairs, held meetings with a number of delegations on the sidelines of the Syria peace talks.
Iran, Russia, Turkey have reaffirmed their commitment to Syria sovereignty, territorial integrity.
The guarantors of Syria’s ceasefire have issued a joint statement on the sidelines of a Constitutional Committee gathering in Geneva.
During a meeting with Russian delegates, Khaji briefed them on his recent visit to Damascus, and stressed the need to fight terrorism in Syria, and to help advance the country’s political process within the framework of the Constitutional Committee.
Lavrentiev, for his part, stressed the need for greater cooperation and coordination between Tehran and Moscow to resolve the Syrian conflict.
The Iranian delegation also met with UN representatives, headed by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed in detail the Syrian political process, and underlined the need for the work of the Constitutional Committee in the conflict-ridden Arab nation.
Khaji emphasised Iran’s support for the political settlement of the Syrian crisis and the continuation of the Constitutional Committee’s activities, and expressed the Islamic Republic’s solid support for the UN special envoy for Syria.
Pederson, for his part, appreciated Iran’s supportive role, and stressed the need for trust between the Syrian parties and international actors, as well as the need for a comprehensive approach in order to solve the Syrian crisis.
Furthermore, Iranian and Turkish delegations insisted that there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict.
The two sides discussed the latest situation on the ground, including developments in the northern province of Idlib as well as the political process in Syria, emphasising the work of the Constitutional Committee.
The Iranian and Turkish delegates also stressed that there should be a political settlement of the Syrian conflict.