DAMASCUS - Iran’s influential parliament speaker Ali Larijani met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Friday to discuss a solution to the conflict in his country’s key ally, reports said.
The meeting came as Moscow warned Turkey against deploying Patriot missiles on its troubled border with war-torn Syria after Ankara turned to Nato to request the surface-to-air defences. On the ground, violence erupted in Syrian flashpoints across the country while tensions spiked in the northeast, where Kurdish militia are engaged in a standoff with rebel fighters.
Larijani said before leaving Tehran that he would “try to find a solution to the Syrian problem” on a regional tour that will also take him to Lebanon and Turkey, Iran’s Mehr news agency said. In Damascus, Larijani accused regional powers he did not name of causing “problems” in Syria, in an allusion to the principal champions of arming the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad’s regime - Qatar and Saudi Arabia. “Syria has played an important role in supporting the resistance (against Israel and the United States) but some in the region want to carry out actions with negative consequences, to cause problems in Syria,” he told journalists. “But Iran appreciates the key role Syria has played in supporting the resistance,” he added.
Iran warned Western governments on Sunday against arming the rebels after France said it would consult its European partners on easing an embargo to clear the way for deliveries of “defensive” weapons.
The Syrian foreign ministry said that plans by Turkey to site Patriot missiles along its border was “a new act of provocation”.
It accused Ankara of causing “tension and destruction.” The action is “a new act of provocation,” state television quoted a foreign ministry official as saying. “Syria holds (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan responsible for the militarisation of the situation at the border between Syria and Turkey, and the increase of tension and destruction to the detriment of the Syrian and Turkish peoples,” the unidentified official said.
Damascus ally Moscow meanwhile warned Turkey, a supporter of the Syrian rebellion and Nato member, against pressing ahead with its plans to deploy surface-to-air Patriot missiles along its border with Syria.
“I understand that no one has any intention to see Nato get sucked into the Syrian crisis,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. But “the more arms are being accumulated, the greater the risk that they will be used.”
Assad’s regime has repeatedly warned that the conflict in the country, now in its 21st month, may spark a regional conflagration. Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this week that it would consider Turkey’s request for Patriots “without delay.” The approval is expected in coming days, diplomatic sources have said. “Any accumulation of weapons creates a risk that any provocation may trigger a serious armed conflict. We would like to avoid it at all costs,” said Lavrov. Russia issued its warning a day after Qatar said the National Coalition should name an ambassador to Doha, as the group became increasingly recognised as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
“The Qatari request aims to support the objectives of the National Coalition...on the path to achieve the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people for freedom and dignity,” said the Qatari official news agency, quoting a senior official.
The coalition, headed by moderate Islamist Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib, has been recognised by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, France and Britain.
Meanwhile, army troops shelled Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham southwest of Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while fighting raged in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a day after troops pulled out of the nearby city of Mayadeen.
Following several days of combat against rebels advancing on Kurdish areas in the northeast, rival Kurdish fighters agreed to join forces and fight together in a standoff against hundreds of Islamists in Ras al-Ain, an activist said. “The two Kurdish national councils in western Kurdistan have agreed...to create a united military force, bringing together PYD forces and other Kurdish dissidents” in Syria, said the activist, who identified himself as Havidar. Violence across Syria on Thursday killed at least 138 people, among them 40 rebels, 45 soldiers, 44 civilians and nine Kurdish fighters, said the Observatory. Among those killed was Basel Tawfiq Yousef, a state television reporter shot dead in his neighbourhood in south Damascus. More than 40,000 people have been killed across Syria since the outbreak of the uprising against Assad in March last year, according to the watchdog.
The revolt became a bloody insurgency after peaceful protests were met with brutal repression.