The trilateral meeting between Iran, Russia and Turkey in the Russian resort of Sochi this week was “a right step, at the right time” for stability in Syria, Iranian President Hassan Rohani told Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad.
- After Syria, Saudi and Iranian eyes turn to the next arena: Iraq
- Russia likely to reduce forces in Syria by end of 2017, military chief says
- Syria in ruins, but Assad confident: The three scenarios that could still bring him down
Russia’s Vladimir Putin won the backing of Turkey and Iran on Wednesday to host a Syrian peace congress, taking the central role in a major diplomatic push to finally end a civil war all but won by Assad.
“Sochi summit was a right step at the right time,” Rohani was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Saturday in a phone call with Tehran’s main regional ally.
He said a national congress to hold face-to-face talks between government and opposition could be “a step toward stability and security of Syria.”
Iran has signed large economic contracts with Syria, reaping what appear to be lucrative rewards for helping Assad in his fight against rebel groups and Islamic State militants.
“Tehran is ready to have an active role in reconstruction of Syria,” Rohani added.
The chief commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who has sent weapons and thousands of soldiers to Syria to prop up Assad’s regime, also said on Thursday that their forces were ready to help rebuild Syria and bring about a lasting “cease-fire” there.
Syria’s six-year civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee in the worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
In a joint statement in Sochi, the three leaders called on the Syrian government and moderate opposition to “participate constructively” in the planned congress, to be held in the same city on a date they did not specify.
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch rival in the Middle East, also sponsored a meeting on Wednesday at a luxury hotel in Riyadh for the Syrian opposition groups.
Regional tensions have risen in recent weeks between Sunni Muslim monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran.
Saudi Crown Prince called the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “the new Hitler of the Middle East” in an interview with the New York Times published on Thursday.
Israel also views Iran as the main threat in the region, and a cabinet minister said this month Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia.
“It is very odd that a regional country considers Iranian nation as its enemy and the Zionist regime as its friend,” Rohani told Assad in the call.
The next round of UN-backed peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the Syrian civil war will begin on November 28.