Iran’s foreign minister on Monday reiterated his country’s commitment to the regime in Damascus, praising a defiant speech by President Bashar al-Assad and calling on all sides to use “the opportunity” to help end the crisis.
Ali-Akbar Salehi told Iranian media that the initiative outlined in a speech by the Syrian leader on Sunday was “a comprehensive plan” which incorporated regional and international proposals, including those of Iran, for finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.
Mr Salehi urged “all sides” including the Syrian “national opposition” – a coded reference which excludes any Syrian opposition group alleged to have foreign military support – as well as western and regional countries to use “the opportunity … to bring about a Syrian-Syrian solution”.
In his speech Mr Assad called for a “total national mobilisation to save the country from the clutches of a crisis which has no precedent in this region” and to defeat “terrorist” rebels.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, “elaborately” focused on the contents of Mr Assad’s address during a visit to Tehran on Saturday. He added that Syrian officials had also consulted Russia and China.
Iran has been Mr Assad’s staunchest regional ally since the uprising began nearly two years ago. The Iranian government views the crisis as a foreign plot – driven by the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – to oust Mr Assad and ultimately disconnect Iran from Lebanon’s Hizbollah, its main proxy in the region. In Tehran’s view, this would pave the way for regime change under the pretext of halting Iran’s nuclear programme.
Although Iran denies sending any military or financial support to Syria, Iranian analysts believe the Islamic regime prefers to fight its “enemies” in Syria to prevent them from reaching Iran’s borders.
Tehran has presented a six-point plan for Syria, which calls for an immediate ceasefire and the implementation of political reforms by Mr Assad.
“Iran’s support for Syria has been consistent,” said Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a professor of international relations in Tehran, in the reformist Arman daily on Monday. He added that comments by some commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards showed that Iran was determined “not to let [Mr] Assad collapse”.
Mr Amir-Abdollahian said on Monday that the Syrian opposition rejected Mr Assad’s proposal because they feared his re-election in in any future polls because of his “popular base”.
He added that establishment of a new government in Syria had to be based on a new constitution, and there should be a referendum to determine whether Mr Assad can run again for president.
“There are two paths ahead of Syria: The first is to continue the current situation and the second is dialogue and a political solution,” he said.
Elsewhere, Iran’s oil revenues have dropped 45 per cent over the past nine months as a result of international sanctions over the nuclear programme, the semi-official Isna news agency quoted the oil minister, Rostam Ghasemi, as saying in a meeting with parliamentarians.
Gholam-Reza Kateb, an MP, told the agency that the minister also said oil sales had dropped by 40 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year and predicted a “considerable drop” in the next three months.
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