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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Iran Leader Offers To Broker Syria Talks

Iran Leader Offers To Broker Syria Talks

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Iranian President Hassan Rowhani offered to broker talks between the Syrian government and the opposition Thursday, as the United States called for a binding U.N. resolution on the regime’s chemical weapons.

A “definitive” U.N. report has proved that the Syrian regime was behind an August chemical weapons attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“Now the test comes. The (U.N.) Security Council must be prepared to act next week. It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out,” he added.

Syria’s deputy premier said Damascus believes the conflict has reached a stalemate and would call for a ceasefire if long-delayed peace talks in Geneva were to take place.

“Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side,” Qadri Jamil told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

When asked what his government would propose at the stalled Geneva-2 summit, he replied: “An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process.”

In his latest bid to reach out to the international community since becoming Iran’s president in August, Rowhani announced Tehran’s “readiness” to facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Rowhani, writing in The Washington Post, said he wanted to pursue a policy of “constructive engagement.”

Speaking on NBC television, the Iranian leader also refused to rule out what would be a historic first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, saying “anything is possible.”

Rowhani has separately asked to meet with French President Francois Hollande, on the sidelines of next week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting.

U.N. envoys are debating a draft resolution that would enshrine a joint U.S.-Russian plan to secure and neutralize Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s banned chemical weapons.

Assad insisted in an interview Wednesday with U.S. television Fox News that his forces had not been behind an August 21 gas attack on the Damascus suburbs that killed hundreds of civilians, but vowed nevertheless to hand over his deadly arsenal.

After last month’s barrage of sarin-loaded rockets, which the West says was clearly launched by the regime, U.S. President Barack Obama moved to the brink of punitive military strikes. However, military action was put on hold after an agreement between the United States and Russia aimed at neutralizing Syria’s chemical stockpile.

That plan will face its first big test on Saturday, the one-week deadline announced by Moscow and the United States for Assad to provide a list of his chemical facilities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was confident but not entirely sure that Syria would carry out its commitments.

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