Tehran: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia and Iran said that an mounting dispute between the two countries would not affect international efforts to end the war in Syria, even as a large Syrian rebel group cast doubt on the UN-led peace process. The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said in a statement after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran that Iran had assured him that the row would not upset talks set for later this month.
De Mistura told reporters in Tehran, “The Saudi foreign minister assured me that there would be no impact from their point of view… In Iran I got the same assurance”, after talks in Riyadh earlier this week and in Iran yesterday. He also said the severing of diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran had been his main concern ahead of his trip.
De Mistura also said, “talks on Syria scheduled in Geneva on January 25 can still start in the right atmosphere shortly after meeting with Zarif”. “I can refer to you from minister Zarif that there is no intention to see the current tensions affect the current engagement in the Vienna momentum, of which they (Iran) are very much part,” de Mistura said, referring to international talks launched in the Austrian capital last year.
Nor will the row “affect their commitment and engagement in supporting the UN attempts to have a constructive beginning on January 25 of the Syria talks,” the envoy added.
Saudi Arabia said yesterday its cutting of diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran was a first step and it could take more action if Tehran does not change its policies, but did not expect the dispute to affect efforts to end the war in Syria.
Speaking at a news conference after an Arab League meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country would discuss any potential further actions against Iran with its regional and international allies but gave no details on what those measures might involve.
Jubeir said some countries had offered to mediate but that required Iran to be serious about the efforts. “With regards to mediation, there are some states that have expressed their readiness to conduct this, but the important thing is seriousness with regards to the Iranian position,” he said.
Syrian opposition officials have expressed misgivings about the peace talks, citing the need to see goodwill measures from the government side including a ceasefire, a detainee release and the end of blockades on besieged areas before starting negotiations.
Islam Army (Jaysh al-Islam), part of a newly formed council to oversee the negotiations on the opposition side, said in a statement that it was unacceptable to talk about a political solution to the war while people died of hunger and bombardment.
The group said the “best way to force the regime to accept the (political) solution and stick by it” was to allow states that back the opposition to supply rebels with anti-aircraft missiles. The statement, sent by the Islam Army’s spokesman overnight, said it would guarantee the missiles would not reach groups that would use them “illegally”.