Iran, Iraq, Egypt to attend Syria talks in Vienna

Iran accepts invitation to discuss Syrian conflict in Vienna, with participants widened to include Iraq, Egypt and EU’s Federica Mogherini

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran October 17, 2015.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputies will attend Syria peace talks in Vienna on Friday, the Iranian ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

"Deputy Foreign Ministers Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi will accompany Zarif on this trip," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Iraq and Egypt will also take part in the awaited talks, as Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Nazar al-Khairalla’s participation was confirmed on Wednesday.  As well as the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announcing he will attend the international talks in Vienna on Friday.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will take part in an international meeting on Syria in Vienna on Friday, an EU spokeswoman said on Wednesday. The EU was absent during the last week’s talks."The European Union is very involved in what is happening in Syria," the spokeswoman told a news briefing.

Last week’s talks were also in the Austrian capital and involved only the US and Russian foreign ministers as well as Saudi and Turkish officials.

Iran, in particular has been invited to attend talks over Syria’s future for the first time, as they have supported Assad’s regime in Syria during the ongoing war against opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army.

Although the US doesn't agree on Iran's "destabilizing activities" in Syria, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that officials "always have recognised that at some point in the discussion, moving toward a political transition, we have to have a conversation and a dialogue with Iran."

"It's up to Iran to decide whether they're going to or not when they are asked," he added.

Iran is the closest ally to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, along with Russia. And Egypt have so far fully supported the Russian intervention in Syria, Egypt was invited by the Russian delegation.

The last diplomatic summit was also held in Vienna, foreign ministers from the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey gathered for the first meeting in Vienna on Friday to discuss the situation in Syria and to define strategies to support the so-called "political transition.” However, they failed to reach an agreement over the political situation of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.

During the meeting, Turkey, the US and Saudi Arabia demanded Assad to be removed from power to reach peace in the country. Assad refuses to do so, while enjoying the military and logistical support of his allies, Russia, Iran and Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia.

‘Iran’s presence at the table, undermines talks’

Syrian opposition group based in Turkey, Syrian National Coalition (SNC), said Iran's participation in the talks would undermine the political process.

"Iran has only one project - to keep Assad in power... they don't believe in the principle of the talks," the coalition's Vice-President Hisham Marwa said.

"Iran doesn't believe in the Geneva Communiqué. Involving it (Iran) in talks undermines the political process," he told Reuters.

The Geneva communique is an internationally agreed upon document finalized in 2012, setting out guidelines for Syria's path to peace and a political transition, the document is rejected by Assad and his Allies.

The SNC said they would not refuse to participate in talks despite the conversations. Marwa said "What's important now is not to refuse talks, it is important to express our concern”.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, spoke to Reuters over the matter, particularly the Iranian participation, "This is an acknowledgement of reality, four years into the conflict," said .

"Having Iran at the table complicates the goal of getting rid of Assad, but potentially opens the door to some kind of de-escalatory track," he added.

The US says Russia can’t win in Syria

New momentous chapter was started in the Syrian conflict when Russia started its airstrikes in Syria on September 30, with initial claim of battling DAESH terrorist group, however, in time the Russian intentions in Syria appeared to be to only protect the Assad regime and withering authorities.

In comments over the Russian intervention in Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry's deputy Antony Blinken spoke to France 24 television channel on Wednesday.

"They cannot win in Syria, they can perhaps prevent (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad from losing, but they cannot win," Blinken said of Russia.

"Its actions on the ground in support of the regime are not going particularly well, they have made very little progress despite the onslaught of Russia airpower," he after participating in talks on Syria in Paris.

"Russia now has an incentive and more influence to move Assad and the regime towards a transition. There is a recognition on all sides that there is no military solution in Syria, that is a recognition that is now growing on the Russians."

“Russia cannot afford to become mired in Syria, it cannot afford to alienate virtually all of the Sunni Muslim world," he said.

France hosts talks after Vienna, sans Assad allies

French Foreign Ministry said rounds of talks over the Syrian conflict will be starting on Tuesday in France with representatives from the United States, Europe, Jordan and Turkey but without Syrian regime allies Russia and Iran.

The meeting in France is expected to focus on the fight against DAESH, the protection of Syrian civilians, and the proposal for a United Nations Security Council resolution France plans to put on the table this week.

The resolution is aimed at stopping Assad's forces from using barrel bombs against his people. Barrel bombs are steel drums full of shrapnel and explosives that are dropped from the air.

Since the beginning of the four-year war in Syria, more than 250,000 Syrians were killed, mainly by Assad regime, whilst, half of the country’s population are displaced internally or in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq. More than 350,000 Syrians have also claimed asylum in Europe.


TRTWorld and agencies