Syria conflict targeting ‘resistance axis,’ Assad tells Iranian FM
In a meeting on Wednesday, President Bashar al-Assad told Iran’s foreign minister the conflict engulfing Syria is targeting not just it but the “resistance axis,” state news agency SANA reported.
Assad’s regime, Iran and the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah refer to themselves as a “resistance axis” in their common opposition to Israel.
“The ongoing battle is targeting the whole of the resistance axis, not just Syria,” Assad told Iran’s visiting Ali Akbar Salehi.
Meanwhile, Assad said “Syria has shown openness in dealing with all initiatives put forward to find a solution to the crisis. The key to any initiative’s success is the sincerity of the intentions behind it.”
The Assad meeting with the Iranian foreign minister came amid reports that two bombs had hit a Damascus suburb.
At least 117 people have been killed across Syria by security force gunfire, the Local Coordination Committees activist group said, according to Al Arabiya TV.
A reporter and photographer for the Syria-based Shaam News Network, Abdel Karim al-Oqda, was killed during an attack on a neighborhood in the city of Hama, the network reported.
Oqda died with three of his colleagues after troops surrounded the house they were in. The troops then reportedly burned the house after the killings.
The Shaam reporter was active in posting videos to sharing website YouTube, posting more than 1,200 videos from inside combat zones since 2011.
Earlier on Wednesday, Salehi said the solution to the conflict “lies only with Syria and within the Syrian family, in partnership with international and regional organizations.”
Assad and his allies in Iran, China and Russia have systematically blamed the conflict on foreign powers, notably the West, Gulf countries and Turkey.
Salehi, who called earlier this week for a simultaneous halt to fighting in the war-torn country, said “Syria is facing a problem, and we hope that this problem can be solved as soon as possible.”
He said “Syria has very strong, solid ties with Iran, especially at the political level,” and that he would discuss the conflict with Syrian officials.
“We will be consulting on all political aspects of this problem that Syria is facing,” said Salehi.
Salehi, who held talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem before meeting Assad, called this week for a simultaneous halt in violence by both sides and insisted on a peaceful solution without foreign intervention.
He issued that call at a meeting in Cairo on Monday of the Syria “contact group,” to which Iran, as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey belong.
A staunch ally of Damascus, Tehran is also proposing the contact group dispatch observers to Syria in an effort to quell the violence.
Iran has strenuously denied accusations it is providing military aid to Assad’s regime.
In turn, it has accused the West and several regional countries -- notably Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- of providing military and financial assistance to Syrian opposition fighters.
The head of Syria’s main opposition coalition expressed reservations on Wednesday about the presence of staunch Damascus ally Iran in the regional contact group on the strife-torn country.
“We have informed the Qatari leadership of our reservations over the matter of having Iran join the quartet,” Abdel Basset Sayda, chairman of the Syrian National Council, told AFP in Doha after meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem.
“We appreciate the return of Egypt to its regional role, but I think Iran is involved in what is happening in Syria.”
The Syrian uprising, which has steadily militarized in the face of government repression, has left more than 27,000 people dead since it erupted in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Civilians have borne the vast brunt of the violence.
The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.
Meanwhile, U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that Assad and the Syrian opposition were determined to fight to the end, but renewed appeals for political dialogue.
Ban told a press conference it was “troubling” that 18 months into the uprising against Assad there was no solution in sight.
“Unfortunately both sides, government and opposition forces seem to be determined to see the end by military means,” the U.N. secretary general said.
“I think military means will not bring an answer,” he added calling for “political dialogue reflecting the genuine aspirations and will” of the Syrian people.