UN Syria envoy says Vienna talks at ‘very critical moment’

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says Syrian peace talks in Vienna are at a 'critical moment'. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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UN Syria envoy says Vienna talks at ‘very critical moment’

VIENNA: The UN special envoy for Syria said that peace talks due to resume in Vienna on Thursday are taking place “at a very, very critical moment.”
“Definitely I am optimistic because it is the only way to be at such moments,” Staffan de Mistura said on Wednesday. “It is a very, very critical moment.”
He said a “full delegation of the opposition and a full delegation of the government” would be in the Austrian capital for the two days of talks.
France’s foreign minister said meanwhile in Paris that the Vienna talks are the “last hope” for reaching a political solution to the seven-year war.
“There is no prospect of a political solution today except, and it’s the last hope, the meeting that opens tomorrow in Vienna led by the United Nations and with all the stakeholders present,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
Speaking in parliament, Le Drian also highlighted a “considerable worsening of the humanitarian situation” in Afrin, where Turkish forces are carrying out an offensive against a Kurdish militia, as well as in Idlib and in Eastern Ghouta.
The talks hosted by de Mistura in Vienna come after eight previous rounds in Geneva that failed to get the warring parties even to talk to each other.
The discussions have repeatedly stumbled over the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Representatives from his government have refused to meet the opposition directly until it drops demands that he leave office.
The talks come ahead of a peace conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey on January 29-30.
Moscow initially hoped to convene peace talks in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors.
Syria’s main opposition group has said it would need “full and clear information” before agreeing to take part, but government representatives have said they will attend.
Syria’s complex, multi-sided seven-year war has claimed more than 340,000 lives, forced millions to flee their homes and left Syria in ruins.
Bolstered by Russia’s intervention in 2015, Damascus has regained the upper hand militarily, retaking large swathes of rebel-held territory.
Russian-backed Syrian forces have also dealt severe blows to the Daesh group, whose self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria has largely collapsed.
In December the first Russian troops began returning home after President Vladimir Putin ordered a pullout, saying their mission had been largely completed.
De Mistura has called on Putin to push the Assad regime to hold new elections, saying a military victory alone was not enough to “win the peace.”


Saudi crown prince, Pompeo send a message to Iran: End hostility or pay the price

Updated 17 June 2019
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Saudi crown prince, Pompeo send a message to Iran: End hostility or pay the price

  • The US secretary of state said the US was discussing a possible international response
  • MBS hoped the Iranian regime “would opt to become a normal state and cease its hostile policy”

JEDDAH: The US will take all actions necessary — “diplomatic and otherwise” — to deter Iran from disrupting Gulf energy supplies, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Sunday.

Pompeo spoke hours after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Kingdom would “not hesitate in dealing with any threat against our people, sovereignty and vital interests.”

The twin warnings to the regime in Tehran followed last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely assumed to have been carried out by Iran.

“We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter it,” Pompeo said in a TV interview. “But the Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.

“What you should assume is we are going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the Strait of Hormuz. This is an international challenge, important to the entire globe. The US is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome.”

Pompeo said the US was discussing a possible international response, and he had made a number of calls to foreign officials about the tanker attacks.

He said China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia relied heavily on freedom of navigation through the strait. “I’m confident that when they see the risk, the risk to their own economies and their own people, and outrageous behavior of Iran, they will join us in this.”

The Saudi crown prince, in an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, said the Kingdom had “supported the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran out of our belief that the international community needed to take a decisive stance against Iran.”

He hoped the Iranian regime “would opt to become a normal state and cease its hostile policy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom’s hand was always extended for peace, but the Iranian regime had disrespected the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Tehran by attacking the two oil tankers in the Gulf, one of which was Japanese.

“It also employed its militias to carry out a shameful attack against Abha International Airport. This is clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s policy and intentions to target the security and stability of the region.”

The crown prince said the attacks “underscore the importance of our demand before the international community to take a decisive stance against an expansionist regime that has supported terrorism and spread death and destruction over the past decades, not only in the region, but the whole world.”

Prince Mohammed’s interview was “a message to Tehran, and beyond Tehran, to the international community,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“He sent out the message that we do not want a war in the region. He was offering peace, as is our nature, and that is what we are doing now. But if it is going to affect our vital interests, our vital resources and our people, we will defend ourselves and take action to handle any threat.  

“We are facing aggressive, barbaric and terrorist threats from Iran, and we must take rapid and decisive action against that. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is sending a message to the world that there must be a solution.”