Syria: Iran's diplomatic maneuvers,from Syria to Turkey

Tehran active in Cairo as well,Assad forces focus on Aleppo

07 August, 20:40

(ANSAMed) - BEIRUT, AUGUST 7 - While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces concentrate on holding Damascus and Aleppo, leaving the eastern territories in rebel hands, Iran asserted its role as a major player in the bloody Syrian conflict with a series of diplomatic moves on Tuesday.

In Damascus, Assad met with Said Jalili, an envoy from Iran's Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Syria conflict ''is not an internal issue but a struggle between the (anti-Israeli) axis of resistance, and the enemies of this axis,'' Jalili told reporters from Al Mayadeen TV. ''Iran will in no way allow the axis of resistance to be broken, and Syria is an essential lynchpin of this axis,'' he added.

Syrian State TV ran images of President Bashar al-Assad, who had not been seen on video in over two weeks, meeting with Jalili. ''Syria is determined to cleanse the country of terrorists,'' the broadcaster quoted Assad as saying.

Prior to reaching Damascus, Jalili spent two days in Beirut, where he had private meetings with Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement.

Syria and Iran have been strategic allies for over 30 years, and Assad's fall could spell disaster for Iran's sphere of influence in the region.

Jalili's visit to Damascus comes ahead of a Thursday meeting called by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with leaders of unspecified countries having a ''realistic position'' with regards to Syria.

In Ankara on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told his Turkish counterpart that a Syria solution will be ''very difficult'' without the contribution of two regional powers like Turkey and Iran. Salehi also discussed the kidnapping of 48 Iranian Shiites by Turkey-supported Syrian Sunnite rebels in Damascus, whose fate remains unknown. Iran's position is that they were simply religious pilgrims, the rebels say they are at least in part, Iranian agents. Iran has pleaded for their liberation with both Turkey and Qatar.

The Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firuzabadi, warned ''Turkey could be next'' after Syria, Turkish press reported on Tuesday. The general blamed the Syrian ''bloodbath'' on Turkish, Saudi and Qatari support of the Sunnite rebels there, according to Dogan news agency. Turkey's foreign minister immediately condemned Firuzabadi's comments, Anadolu agency reported.

Iran is also taking steps to resume full relations with Egypt, which is now led by the Muslim Brotherhood, sending Vice President Hamid Baghaei to Cairo for a two-day visit beginning on Tuesday. This is the highest-level official visit since Iran broke off diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1979, when it signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Syrian official news agency Sana accused bands of ''armed terrorists'' of carrying out ''a massacre'' of workers at a tourist resort near Homs. Anti-Assad activists counter-reported that the killings were carried out by irregular militias loyal to Assad, known as shabbiha. Four of the victims were Christians, according to the activists. (ANSAMed).

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