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Teheran meeting on Syria 'not promising'

Updated: 2012-08-09 23:45
By ZHANG YUNBI ( China Daily)

Conference may not affect crisis due to absence of major players: Experts

Iran on Thursday hosted a 29-nation conference on Syria with the aim of stopping bloodshed there and forging a role for Teheran as peace broker for its Arab ally.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the meeting by calling for "national dialogue between the (Syrian) opposition, which has popular support, and the Syrian government to establish calm and security,” according to state television.

He added that Iran was prepared to host any such dialogue.

Salehi said Iran was opposed to "any foreign interference and military intervention in resolving the Syrian crisis” and supported efforts extended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Experts said the meeting’s influence might be limited as most of the attending countries are friends of Teheran.

"Teheran’s effort in hosting the Syrian-issue conference may not make a difference because of the absence of some major players, especially the countries that have given rise to the crisis,” said Zhang Xiaodong, an expert on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

As a major player in the region, Teheran also plans to run counter to Washington and show its influence in the region, and the conference serves as an example of Teheran’s international reach, Zhang said, adding: "It serves as an approach for Iran to game with Washington.”

Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, on Tuesday stressed his country’s rejection of foreign intervention in Syria, and he said the road for a settlement in Syria is a political rather than a military one.

In a news conference after his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on the same day, Jalili lashed out at the countries that render support and military supplies to the armed rebels in Syria, saying that such parties "can’t in any way serve the interests of the Syrian people”.

Western diplomats have dismissed the conference as an attempt to divert attention away from bloody events on the ground and to preserve Assad’s rule.

"The Islamic republic’s support for Assad’s regime is hardly compatible with a genuine attempt at conciliation between the parties,” Reuters quoted one Western diplomat based in Teheran as saying.

It showed Iran was "running out of ideas”, he added.

Another Western diplomat said Teheran was trying to broaden the support base of the Syrian leader.

The current situation Assad faces is not very ideal, yet he faces few major problems in the short term, analysts said.

The splits and rifts within the Assad administration are still isolated cases and have not harmed the core of the governing team, according to Li Shaoxian, a researcher of Middle East studies at China Institutes of Contemporary Relations.

Excluded from the Teheran meeting were Western and Gulf nations that Iran has accused of giving military backing to the bloody near 17-month insurgency seeking to oust Assad.

State media said the foreign ministers of Iraq, Pakistan and Zimbabwe were present.

Lower-ranking diplomats, most of them ambassadors, represented the other nations.

Salehi listed those nations as: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Benin, Belarus, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Oman, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Venezuela.

As a close ally of Syria, Iran recently also called on the Syrian government to listen to its people’s pursuits and implement necessary reforms.

AFP, Reuters and Xinhua contributed to this story.