Assad meets Iranian minister in Damascus

2014-01-15 18:18
Bashar Assad. (File: AP)

Bashar Assad. (File: AP)

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Damascus - Syrian President Bashar Assad met the foreign minister of Iran, a key ally of his regime, in Damascus on Wednesday, state news agency Sana said.

"President Assad is meeting Mohammad Javad Zarif, foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his delegation", Syria's Sana reported.

Zarif arrived from Jordan, where he had been as part of a regional tour that also included a visit to Lebanon on Monday.

His meeting with Assad comes less than a week before the so-called Geneva II peace conference, which is aimed at ending the conflict in Syria that has killed 130 000 people in nearly three years.

Earlier, Sana had quoted Zarif as saying the purpose of his visit "was to help ensure that the international Geneva II conference on Syria brings about results that are in the interests of the Syrian people".

Zarif also said he would "work to co-ordinate a position that would restore calm and security to Syria", while urging "all parties to battle extremism and terrorism, which are threats to us all".

The visiting foreign minister had been due to address the media in Damascus on Wednesday, but the press conference was cancelled, a diplomatic source said.

The top Iranian diplomat had said in Beirut on Monday that countries seeking to keep Iran away from the Geneva II peace conference would "regret" his country's absence.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Tehran could participate in talks only if it agrees to the principles set out at the creation of a transitional government.

During his visit to Lebanon on Monday, Zarif met President Michel Sleiman as well as Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of the Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, a Tehran ally that has sent thousands of men to fight alongside Syrian government forces.

Syria's opposition has issued several calls in recent weeks demanding Iran's exclusion from the Geneva talks, citing Tehran's alleged military and political support to the regime in Damascus.

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