Bashar Assad’s role in Syria solution ‘pivotal’

Bashar Assad

President Bashar Assad has a “pivotal” role to play in the war on terrorism and in any political settlement to Syria’s devastating civil war, a senior Iranian official said.

About 250,000 people have been killed and more than 1m wounded in Syria since March 2011, according to UN officials. More than half the country’s population has been displaced, including more than 4m who have fled Syria.

Deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said after meeting with Assad that any “successful” attempt to find a solution should take into consideration the right of the Syrian people to shape their future.

Iran is a key backer of Assad and has said it is working on a four-point initiative to end the Syrian civil war. Abdollahian said Iran “highly appreciates the pivotal and central role of Syrian president Bashar Assad in preserving the national unity of Syria and in combating terrorism”.

Abdollahian met earlier in the week with UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura while on a trip to neighbouring Beirut.

He said he had conveyed to de Mistura some “criticism” the Iranian leadership has on some of the points in his initiative and added that de Mistura has “promised to make some amendments”. He did not elaborate.

Syrian deputy foreign minister Faysal Mekdad, speaking at the press conference with Abdollahian, said Syria had a number of questions on de Mistura’s initiative.

“Once we get the answers, we will announce our stance toward the initiative.”

The UN Security Council last month endorsed de Mistura’s plan for new peace talks to end the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year.

It includes talks on a political transition leading to democratic elections, and how best to fight terrorism.

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