Khamenei dismisses foreign countries’ involvement in Syria

November 1, 2015  

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dismissed on Sunday the chances of foreign countries bartering a deal over Syria’s future, suggesting they should focus on securing a halt to fighting that allows fresh elections, AFP reported.

Khamenei also repeated his ban on direct talks with the United States about turmoil in the Middle East, as he has done since the nuclear agreement with his country was signed, saying U.S. objectives in the region were utterly at odds with Iranian policy.

The comments, to Iran’s ambassadors and other top diplomats, were Khamenei’s first since his country joined international negotiations on the four-year Syrian conflict.

He said Syria’s people must choose who their leader would be, rather than the United States and other foreign powers trying to decide for them.

“The Americans seek to impose their own interests, not solve problems. They want to impose 60, 70 percent of their will,” he charged, alluding to the peace talks which took place Friday in Vienna.

“So what’s the point of negotiations?” he said, insisting that military and financial support given to rebels fighting President Bashar Al-Assad, principally from Gulf states and the U.S., must stop if the Syria conflict is to end.

Top diplomats from 17 countries, as well as the United Nations and the European Union, had gathered in Austria, seeking to narrow divisions over Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 250,000.

For the first time, the meeting brought together all the main outside players in the crisis, including Russia and Iran, key allies of Assad’s government.

The Syrian regime and the opposition were not represented.

Iran is a key ally of Assad, standing by him since an uprising against his regime broke out in 2011.

The Islamic Republic provides Assad with financial aid and military advisors. Near the start of the war, it was reported that former President Mahmouad Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops, but Iran denies it has any fighters on the ground in Syria.

Iran and the United States held direct negotiations for almost two years which led to a deal over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program on July 14, but afterwards Khamenei banned bilateral talks on other issues.

Alluding again to hopes of a peace settlement generated in Vienna, Khamenei appeared to suggest the debate over Assad was unhelpful, reiterating that the eventual solution is a ballot.

“There’s no point in other countries getting together and deciding about a system of government and the head of that state,” he said, according to AFP.

“This is a dangerous innovation which no government in the world would accept being imposed on itself. The solution to Syria’s problem is elections,” he added.

Khamenei also took aim at wider American policy in the Middle East.

“America is the main part of the problem in the region, not part of the solution,” he said, citing U.S. support for “the Zionist regime” in Israel.

“These policies differ 180 degrees with the policies of the Islamic republic,” he added, also criticizing Saudi Arabia for its “double standards” of conducting an air war in Yemen.

“They have intervened in this country upon a request by a resigned and fugitive Yemeni president,” Khamenei charged.

“But on Syria they are not prepared to stop supporting the armed opposition upon a request by the legal president.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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