Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Iran refuses talks

Iran rejected calls to cooperate on solving the Syrian crisis at the UN General Assembly meeting this week, forming a united front with the Russians, writes Camelia Entekhabifard in New York

Iran refuses talks
Iran refuses talks
Al-Ahram Weekly

When Iran announced that President Hassan Rouhani would attend the 70th United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, the first thought was that his government was interested in getting involved in resolving regional crises after the success of the Iran nuclear agreement.  

However, Iran’s foreign minister has been straightforward in saying that the implementation of the nuclear accord is the only important issue that Iran wants to become engaged in, and it has shown less interest in regional talks, especially on the Syrian crisis.
“Regional issues are important, but the priority is moving forward with the nuclear deal and roadmap,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York ahead of the General Assembly meeting. The meeting was the first bilateral meeting the two men had had since the nuclear deal was reached in July.
 With the focus being on Syria and the Islamic State group (IS or Daesh) and the refugee crisis at this General Assembly meeting, there has been little room for Iran to be in the spotlight, especially when the Iranians have not shown an interest in addressing regional matters.

Iran and Russia as the major supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have been resisting the idea of Al-Assad’s removal from power before peace talks begin in the country. Iran has also admitted that it has had talks about the Middle East crisis with the Europeans but not with the Americans.
 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has encouraged Iran to contribute to the political settlements in Syria and Yemen, but in the absence of much political motivation for Iran it’s hard to say if this goal can be achieved this week.

US President Barack Obama openly addressed Iran and Russia in his speech in front of the General Assembly on Monday and encouraged them to cooperate in resolving the crises. Obama said that he was ready to work with Russia and Iran on Syria, but Russia and Iran’s presidents have had a very different response.

Obama called Iran a country that controlled the sectarian conflict in the Middle East and supported groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, and he questioned Iran’s real aims in regional affairs.

Meanwhile, Rouhani told the General Assembly in his speech that “our policy is to continue our peace-seeking efforts in the region based on the same win-win principle and act in a way that will lead to all in the region and the world benefitting from these new conditions” in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.
But disappointed listeners did not find anything new in Rouhani’s speech that would help the international community to tackle the crises in the Middle East and particularly in Syria.
Feeling that nothing can now jeopardise the nuclear accord, Iranian politicians are not showing much interest in getting engaged in Syria unless their demands have been addressed first. Some believe that it is now Iran’s turn to exercise its power in the region as a bargaining chip to stabilise its power and influence in the future.
“The Iran deal can be a good basis for transformation in the Middle East,” Rouhani commented.
Apparently what Iran was promoting at the UN was not any particular plan, despite what the country had been saying months earlier when it said it had a plan to solve the crisis in Syria.
In harmony with Russia, Iran refused any plan of action on Syria that would eliminate Al-Assad from office.

In the wake of the triumph of the nuclear agreement, the Iranians feel they have the upper hand in regional talks at the UN, but their proposals did not attract the world powers or their Arab neighbours.
 Russian President Vladimir Putin was direct when addressing the General Assembly when he said that “we should finally acknowledge that no one but President Al-Assad and his forces are truly fighting IS in Syria.”
 While Iran and Russia are sticking together on Syria, it’s hard to say if this particular General Assembly meeting will offer something new to unite the world against IS and solve the problems in Syria.
Iran clearly is not interested in talking to the US on regional issues, as the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has frequently mentioned.
One foreign diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity told the Weekly that the Syrians “have every right to hate Iran and Russia” despite the help they have received from them.
 “These two nations are blocking the peace talks at the UN at a time when the world could be united against terrorism as it was in Afghanistan in 2001,” he said.

While world leaders from Pope Francis to Obama and the emir of Qatar have praised the nuclear deal with Iran, Iran has not seized the opportunity to show the world that it can behave in such a way as to seek reconciliation with the Western powers and its neighbours.
Rouhani said a new chapter had started in Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, but he did not clarify what he meant or in what terms.

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