IRANIAN Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has insisted that the Islamic Republic will continue to support Syria in its fight against terrorist groups.
Zarif made the comments in a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus on Monday ahead of a planned summit of Iranian, Russian and Turkish presidents in Tehran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will host his Turkish and Russian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin on September 7th in an attempt to find ways to end the ongoing crisis in Syria.
The three presidents previously held summits in the Russian resort city of Sochi in November 2017 and in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in April. Zarif and Muallem also discussed regional issues and the latest developments in Syria, including the return of displaced people to their homeland.
The top Iranian and Syrian diplomats stressed the importance of strengthening economic cooperation and the participation of Iranian firms in the reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria as well as cooperation in international organisations, particularly the United Nations.
Muallem hailed Iran’s support for his country in the battle against terrorist groups and called on Tehran to continue its cooperation with Damascus. Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.
Iran has been offering military advisory support to Syria at the request of the Damascus government, enabling its army to speed up its gains on various fronts against the terrorist outfits. Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami was in Damascus last week and signed an agreement on defence and technical cooperation designed to ensure the continued presence and participation of Iran in Syria’s reconstruction.
In a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, in Damascus on August 26, Hatami warned of extra-regional countries’ plots to sow discord in Syria and vowed the Islamic Republic’s full support for the war-ravaged country in a bid to preserve its territorial integrity and improve its stability.
‘Iran will spare no effort to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity, because security in the country will help improve regional stability,’ the Iranian defence chief added. A senior Iranian commander said, on August 28, the country’s military advisors will maintain their presence in Syria, giving more details about the military cooperation agreement reached between Tehran and Damascus.
‘The continued presence of Iranian (military) advisors in Syria was one of the points of the defence and technical agreement between Tehran and Damascus,’ Iran’s military and defence attaché to Damascus, Brigadier General Abolqassem Alinejad, said.
In a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said the reconstruction process of his country would start in cooperation with friendly countries, particularly Iran and Russia. Zarif also said the two countries’ embassies should prepare the ground for the participation of Iranian private firms in the reconstruction of Syria.
The Iranian foreign minister and Syrian premier called for the exchange of economic delegations in a bid to boost cooperation. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Idlib in northwestern Syria must be cleansed of terrorists and returned to the government fold as he arrived in Damascus for key talks.
‘Terrorists operating in the remaining parts of Idlib must be cleansed, and the region be returned to the people of Syria,’ Zarif told reporters on Monday upon arrival in the Syrian capital. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attempts to turn military success into postwar reconstruction, foreign-backed terrorists in Idlib remain the last major hurdle to the programme.
The Syrian army is gearing up for a major offensive to retake the last terrorist stronghold, but it is facing threats of being hit by the US and its allies if a chemical attack takes place in the province.
Russia and Syria say staging a false flag chemical attack has been in the works for some time by militants and British ‘special forces’ in order to give the US a pretext to hit the government.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the situation in Idlib Province could not be tolerated indefinitely. Speaking in Moscow, the top diplomat said the Syrian government had every right to wipe out militants in Idlib. Lavrov had earlier called the Idlib-based terrorists an ‘abscess’ which must be removed before it harms the thousands of civilians who live there.
In a joint press conference with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said last Wednesday that terrorists holed up in the city were using ordinary people as human shields. ‘So, from all standpoints, this abscess has to be liquidated,’ he said.
For months, Syria has been planning the decisive operation in Idlib, the last of its provinces that still remain under control of the militants. Also on Monday, Iran said it will work with any government which is formed in neighbouring Iraq after two political factions created an alliance that would give them a majority bloc in parliament.
‘We will work with any government linked with any political party and faction in Iraq, because the two countries are neighbours and must cooperate and work together,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran. ‘What matters to Iran is the realisation of what the Iraqi people want,’ he added.
His comments came a day after lawmakers following senior cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said they had created an alliance that would give them a majority bloc in parliament to form a government. Parties led by leader of the Badr Organisation, Hadi al-Amiri, and former premier Nouri al-Maliki also said they had formed their own alliance, which holds the lion’s share of the seats at the legislature.
The 329-seat legislature came together on Monday to elect a speaker and launch the process to form a new government. Iraqi political factions, which did best in the country’s May parliamentary elections, announced separate alliances within the legislature, which they claim enables them to form the country’s new government.
Late on Sunday, Qassemi hit out at ‘absolutely ridiculous’ allegations made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of Iranian transfer of missiles to Iraq. The spokesman said Washington will not succeed in hampering longstanding relations between Tehran and Baghdad through its divisive policies.
His made the remarks after Pompeo expressed ‘deep concern’ over reports of Iran allegedly moving ballistic missiles to Iraq. ‘If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231,’ Pompeo tweeted. Speaking to ILNA news agency, Qassemi dismissed the ‘utterly ridiculous’ remarks as an attempt to deceive public opinion.
‘Interestingly enough, Pompeo has referred to a totally irrelevant resolution which has already been breached by the US itself,’ the Iranian spokesman said. The UN Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsed a nuclear deal in 2015 between Iran and world powers. Tehran says the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal in early May 2018 is a violation of that resolution.
Qassemi urged the US to refrain from meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq, saying the US military presence is indeed the main cause of instability and insecurity in the Middle East. ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran is the main source of stability and security in this region and is in the front line of the battle against terrorism and extremism,’ he said.
Qassemi said Iran and Iraq now have their best-ever relations, and the divisive US policies cannot hamper longstanding historical, cultural and political relations between the two neighbours.
The missile transfer claim was first made by Reuters, prompting Iran to vehemently reject it. ‘The report is solely aimed at creating fears among regional countries’ and in line with Iranophobic policies,’ Qassemi said on Saturday.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said it was ‘astonished’ by the report, and that it is totally without evidence. ‘The ministry confirms that all Iraqi state institutions are committed to Article 7 of the Constitution, which states that Iraqi territory should not be used as a base or passage for any operation targeting the security of any other state,’ it said.