Rivals Iran, Saudi Arabia at the same table to discuss Syria

World Today

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks to the media after attending a meeting over Syria crisis, in Vienna on October 23, 2015. (CFP Photo)

The world powers and regional countries in the Middle East are gathering in Vienna for a second meeting within one week to try to determine a possible settlement ending the conflicts in Syria.

The world’s eyes are focusing on Iran’s participation in the talks, which would have been regarded as unthinkable weeks ago that the Iranian representative would get into same room with its longtime regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif is heading Iran’s delegation in Friday’s meeting in Vienna, and upon his rival, Zarif said “without Iran’s participation (in the talks), there would be no reasonable and logical solution to the Syrian issue,” according to state IRIB TV.

Zarif also said that any solution to the conflicts in Syria should also take into consideration the “basic principles of fighting terrorism, respecting sovereignty of the country and the rights of the Syrians to decide on their future.”

However, Saudi Arabia expressed doubt earlier on whether Iran’s presence in the meeting would help end the Syrian war.

“If they are not serious, we will also know and stop wasting time with them,” said Adel al-Jubeir, foreign minister of Saudi Aria, “there has to be certainty on Bashar al-Assad’s future.”

The sharply different stances on President Assad’s future are held between the most powerful adversaries in the region, which is reason the Saudis hold little hope of progress in the talks.

On Thursday, a statement, made by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said that Iran will not accept pressures for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under the pretext of solving the Syria crisis.

Amir-Abdollahian, also a member of Tehran’s delegation at the Syria talks on Friday, told state IRIB TV that Iran’s stance pertaining to its support to Syria stands firm, adding that Tehran has always backed the campaign against terrorism and the political process (to settle the conflicts) in Syria.

In addition, the deputy minister also reiterated only the Syrian people will decide their fate within the framework of a political process.

But Reuters reported that Amir Abdollahian’s remarks of Friday, quoted by Iranian media, that “Iran does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever,” which suggests Tehran is ready to be flexible.

During the Syrian war that has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced millions, and resulted in a European refugee crisis, Assad’s main allies, Moscow and Tehran, have supported the government in politics as well as by offering military aid.

Meanwhile, the two allies have repeatedly said the priority for Syria should be the defeat of Islamic State group militants, who have seized large areas across Syria and Iraq.