Syria’s Assad discusses peace talks, trade with Russian envoys

President Bashar Assad (R) receiving Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov in the Syrian capital Damascus. (AFP/SANA)
Updated 20 April 2019
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Syria’s Assad discusses peace talks, trade with Russian envoys

  • The meetings focused on the next round of talks in Kazakhstan involving Syria, Russia Iran and Turkey
  • Russia has helped Assad’s forces to take back most of the country but the 8-year-long war continues

BEIRUT/MOSCOW: Syrian President Bashar Assad met senior officials from his strongest ally Russia in Damascus on Friday and Saturday to discuss upcoming peace talks and trade between the two countries, state media in Syria reported.
Russia has helped Assad’s forces to take back most of the country but the eight-year-long war continues. Swathes of the northeast and northwest are out of his control, while sanctions and a fuel shortage are constricting the economy.
Moscow has pushed for a political process involving talks on a new constitution and elections as a way to end the conflict, but Assad has played down the possibility that the Turkey-backed opposition or foreign countries might participate.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said late on Friday that Assad had met Moscow’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin and several Russian Defense Ministry officials.
However, while it said they had discussed the formation of a constitutional committee, which Syria’s opposition last year agreed to join under UN auspices after a Russian-hosted peace conference, Syrian state media did not mention it.
Syria’s official SANA news agency said meetings had focused on the next round of talks in Kazakhstan involving Syria, its allies Russia and Iran, and the rebels’ backer Turkey.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Syria’s war and about half the pre-conflict population of 22 million has been displaced.
Russia launched a military intervention to support Assad in 2015, turning the tide of the fighting in his favor.
On Saturday, SANA said Assad had met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov to discuss trade and economic cooperation, “particularly in the fields of energy, industry and increasing trade.”
It said Assad and Borisov discussed mechanisms to overcome obstacles including those “resulting from the sanctions which countries against the Syrian people imposed on Syria.”
The United States and European Union imposed tough sanctions on Syria early in the conflict over what they described as atrocities carried out by the government, which it denies.
This week, Syrian state media reported that a fuel shortage which has resulted in rationing and long queues at petrol stations came in the context of difficulty in importing fuel and the halting of a credit line from Iran.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallem said in a statement on Saturday carried by SANA that “Syria is always coordinating with Iran.”


Oman trying to reduce US-Iran tensions: foreign ministry tweet

Updated 25 min 49 sec ago
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Oman trying to reduce US-Iran tensions: foreign ministry tweet

  • ‘There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world’
  • Tensions between the US and Iran have been building in the last few weeks

DUBAI: Oman is trying “with other parties” to reduce tensions between the United States and Iran, the Omani Foreign Ministry tweeted on Friday.

The tweet cited Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, who met on Monday in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world ... Both parties, the American and the Iranian, are aware of the danger,” the tweet cited the Omani minister as saying in an interview with an Arabic publication.

Oman maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously been an important go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations in 1980. Washington and Tehran are in a protracted stand-off over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Tensions have been building in the last few weeks. Washington has sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region since the United States reinstated a range of economic sanctions against Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that Iran will not surrender to US pressure and will not abandon its goals, even if it is bombed.

Another country trying to avert a confrontation in the region is Iraq. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that Baghdad would send delegations to Washington and Tehran to help reduce tensions.