Middle East

Velayati wants Iran, France cooperation on Syria

Iranian advisor to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and hopeful conservative presidential candidate, Ali Akbar Velayati, speaks to the interview with AFP in Tehran, on June 3, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE

TEHERAN: Iran's former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati would "cooperate" with France to resolve the conflict in Syria should he win the June 14 presidential election, he said in an exclusive interview with AFP.

"My offer, if I am victorious, is that Iran and France sit together to talk, and work together, to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis," Velaytai said. "I am ready to do it."

Iran has strongly backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the armed uprising to topple his regime. The conflict there has killed more than 94,000 people since March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

France, along with Western and Arab countries, accuses Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Hezbollah movement, of supplying weapons and sending military forces to help the Syrian regime against rebels.

"France has lost its chance for a positive intervention" to solve the Syrian crisis, said Velayati who served as Iran's top diplomat from 1981 to 1997.

But he added that having a "long history of relations with Syria and Lebanon" puts France in a "better position" than other Western countries to resolve the Syria crisis.

The European Union deeply divided, decided last week to lift the embargo on arms to the Syrian opposition, under pressure from London and, to a lesser extent, Paris.

France has also expressed reservations over a role for Iran in next month's proposed peace conference in Geneva, which aims to end the conflict by bringing together representatives from the Syrian regime and rebels, with its foreign minister Laurent Fabius saying that "Iran does not want a political solution."

Velayati, the international affairs advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Geneva meeting presented "an opportunity," in a reference to the meeting initiated by Washington and Moscow for negotiations between Syria's regime and opposition to reach a political solution.

Asked about Iran's stance should Geneva lead to progress, he said Tehran wanted a "political and not a military solution. Iran will not make a decision on behalf of the Syrian government. If they accept (the outcome of Geneva), we will support it."

Iran said last month it was willing to attend the conference, which was originally scheduled for June, arguing all influential parties must be included in the process for it to be a success.





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