Iranian Ambassador to Damascus Mohammad Reza Rauf Sheibani confirmed his country’s support of a proposed “truce” between the Syrian government and the armed opposition during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Iranian ambassador said that Tehran supports “all actions aiming at putting an end to the violence and paving the way for a political solution.”
In response to written questions from As-Safir, Sheibani ruled out the possibility of war between Syria and Turkey, saying that Turkey’s internal and external conditions would not allow for this level of escalation. He also confirmed that Tehran has been providing different forms of aid to Syria, particularly concerning energy. Iran has also presented its proposal for a political solution.
Sheibani pointed out that Damascus inquired about the Iranian plan, which aims at “halting violence, establishing security, engaging in a national dialogue and carrying out parliamentary elections with the participation of all political parties. This is in addition to forming a government of national unity in accordance with the composition of parliament.”
The ambassador said that Tehran was prepared to negotiate with those who had kidnapped Iranian citizens in Syria, in order to secure their release.
As-Safir: Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Amire Abdul Lahian spoke about an Iranian proposal that will include a transitional period in Syria under the supervision of President Bashar al-Assad. Could you explain to us the mechanism for implementing this idea, and the results of the dialogues you held with the concerned Syrian parties in this regard?
Sheibani: The main points of this proposal can be summed up in the following: halting violence, establishing security, engaging in a national dialogue and carrying out parliamentary elections with the participation of all political parties. This is in addition to forming a government of national unity in accordance with the composition of the parliament. This proposal was introduced to various regional and international parties — as well as to our friends in Syria — who, in turn, had some inquiries that will be examined in Tehran in order to be answered.
As-Safir: In your opinion, what progress has been made in terms of a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis? What are the obstacles to this progress, from Tehran’s perspective?
Sheibani: The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that — based on existing data — the Syrian opposition has failed to achieve its objectives through the use of arms and military action, as the conflict has reached an impasse. The political option is the only solution for the Syrian crisis. Many regional and international parties — not to mention some opposition factions — are also convinced of this solution.
However, the problem at the moment lies in some irresponsible actions on the part of certain regional parties, who are adding fuel to the fire. It is in their best interests to further foment chaos and confusion, and to escalate the crisis not at the level of Syria alone, but at the level of the entire region.
As-Safir: Many Iranian officials have declared on more than one occasion that the Syrian crisis represents a war on one of the resistance’s many forms. On what grounds is this vision based? How are Iran’s enemies reflected in the Syrian conflict?
Sheibani: Syria serves as a main pillar in the triangle of resistance. This fact is obvious and undeniable. Syria has played a major role throughout the history of the resistance against the Zionist entity. It lost part of its territory in order to fulfill the rights of the Palestinian people. Syria has also offered its sons as martyrs for the sake of this cause.
Thus, we believe that the current situation is a scheme by the West, the US and the Zionist entity to remove Syria from the circle of resistance and opposition, before a popular demand.
As for the second part of the question, I would like to say that the real enemy in the region is the Zionist enemy. Thus, whichever party sides with it is not considered a friend of the people of this region. Yet, those who stand by the resistance in the face of Zionist and American plans in the region are friends of the Arab and Islamic nations, as well as Iran.
As-Safir: How would you describe the work of the Quartet Committee, which was formed by Egypt in cooperation with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia?
Sheibani: The Quartet Committee is one of the regional mechanisms that can prove its effectiveness to resolve crises in the region. Iran has announced that the problems in the region must be resolved within the region. These four countries are able to build favorable grounds for further regional convergence and cooperation in the future.
[The Quartet] has a number of important issues on its agenda, such as the Palestinian cause, restoring the rights of the Palestinian people, security, energy and the means to transport it, sustainable development, regional and global peace and stability — in addition to taking advantage of opportunities and potentials, and addressing the challenges facing the Islamic and Arab nations.
As-Safir: Over the past year and a half of the crisis, Iran has provided various forms of support to Syria. What are the main aspects of this support, at both the economic and the military levels?
Sheibani: The Islamic Republic of Iran has sought to minimize the suffering of the Syrian people, who have suffered great pressures and sanctions as a result of the economic blockade. Since the beginning of the crisis — and due to our own experience with the inhumane Western blockade against Iran — we made diligent efforts to find ways to reduce these pressures on the Syrian people. Thus, we provided medicine, medical devices, ambulances and food.
We also bought Syria’s surplus of agricultural and industrial crops and took efficient, significant and serious steps to provide energy and fuel, namely diesel fuel and propane gas. We also provided assistance in various fields, of which I have mentioned only a few.
As-Safir: You have attended conferences held by the Syrian opposition inside the country. Who of the various opposition spectra in Syria do you meet with periodically?
Sheibani: We maintain communication with all spectra of the Syrian opposition who reject foreign interference, violence and militarization, and who believe in a political solution and national dialogue. We do not support the armed opposition which is wreaking havoc and devastation on the infrastructure and the economy, because we firmly oppose all forms of violence.
As-Safir: Do you think that the tension between Turkey and Syria on the border could develop into war, and what is your position in this regard?
Sheibani: I do not think so. The economic and social situations in Turkey — as well as the situation in countries that are friends and allies of Turkey — do not allow for waging war against Syria. A declaration of war is not in the interest of Turkey — both the government and the people — neither economically nor socially. It would also undermine security and stability in the region.
We hope that the situation moves toward calm, for seeking pretexts to escalate the situation regionally is unacceptable.
As-Safir: Does Iran support Lakhdar Brahimi’s call for a truce during Eid al-Adha?
Sheibani: We would approve any proposal that would break the cycle of violence, pave the ground for a political solution and national reconciliation and cut the hands of irresponsible third parties which send money and arms to Syria to further complicate and escalate the situation.
As-Safir: Is there any news about the Iranian hostages, and are pilgrims still traveling to Syria to perform religious rituals?
Sheibani: We are making constant contacts with all parties and are ready to negotiate with the kidnappers through trusted channels. Three Iranian hostages were recently released in the area of Azaz, thanks to the efforts of the security and military authorities. We hope that the rest of our dear citizens will soon be set free to return to their families and loved ones.
In conclusion, I address the dear Syrian people and say that stopping the Syrian bloodshed, as well as ensuring the security, wealth and property of the homeland, is the responsibility of everyone, both the opposition and the regime. It is also the responsibility of every Syrian who is keen on this country, whatever his orientation. The interest of the nation comes first.
Only a political solution and national dialogue will carry this ancient country to the shore of safety and head off the hatred of intruders and opportunists.