Iranian foreign minister says path to rule of law begins as Syria constitutional committee meets

Iran's foreign minister has hailed the first meeting of Syria's constitutional committee in Geneva, describing it as the beginning of a "path to the rule of law" in the Arab country following over eight years of war.

Upon his return to Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "Returned from Geneva where I met with Russian & Turkish FMs, & UN's Geir O. Pedersen, on eve of inauguration of Syria Constitutional Committee." 

Referring to the multilateral talks with his Russian and Turkish counterparts and the UN envoy for Syria in Geneva, he said: "After years of devastating war, path to rule of law begins— thanks to Astana process. Difficult road ahead, but no other alternative."

His comments came a few hours after the opposing sides joined the UN's Pedersen for face to face talks in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis in the war-torn Arab country.  The UN-backed peace talks on Syria are now underway in Geneva, as the representatives from the Syrian government and Western-backed opposition came together for the first time.

A total of 150 delegates representing the government, opposition and civil society on Wednesday met at a constitutional committee meeting held inside the Council Chamber of the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The members of the constitutional committee, which took almost two years of consultations to be formed, are tasked with reforming the Arab country's constitution before it is put to the vote of the Syrian people.

The UN hopes this will be a chance to begin formulating tangible agreements between the rival side, but Russia and Iran have warned this is just the beginning of a long and difficult process.

In a joint communiqué released at the end of a separate meeting with Pedersen on Tuesday, Iran, Russia and Turkey stressed that Syria’s long-awaited constitutional committee must work independently and far from any foreign interference in order to draw maximum support from all walks of the Syrian nation.

Addressing the Wednesday meeting with Syrian groups, Pedersen acknowledged the enormously difficult task ahead. "I know it is not easy for all of you to be here together in this room."

"But the fact you are here, face to face, is a powerful sign of hope for all Syrians, everywhere," he added.  The UN envoy said reforming the country's constitution is the first step toward the beginning of a political process that will lead to UN-supervised elections under UN Resolution 2254.

However, he said, the process will have to be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned. "Do not expect me or my team to tell you what to write in your constitution. The future constitution belongs to Syrians, to the Syrian people and them alone."

Edited by Ed Newman
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Rouhani Hails Cuban Nation’s Resistance Against US, Global Arrogance

“Iranian people considers Cuban nation a combatant and resistant nation, as it were not for your resistance, the US exerted dominance not only on Cuba but also Latin America,” President Rouhani said during the meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the sidelines of the 18th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit on Friday.

He reiterated that Iran and Cuba are paying for their resistance and insistence on independence against the US excessive demands, and said, “They will leave behind the calamities and arrogant powers have no option but to surrender to the Iranian and Cuban nations.”

President Rouhani pointed to Iran-Cuba relations, and said, “Iran and Cuba have always had warm and friendly relations and their stances on regional and global policies were close to each other.”

Cuban president, for his part, said that Havana has always favored warm and cordial relations with Iran.

He also hailed Rouhani's speech during the 18th NAM Summit as extremely firm and straightforward, and said, “Today you (President Rouhani) explained the US excessive policies well”.

Cuba has always condemned the US antagonistic policies against Iran, Diaz-Canel said, adding that the US exit from the JCPOA is denounced by Cuba.

Describing Iran-Cuba ties as historic and strong, he said that the two countries' economic and trade exchanges should increase in all fields.

The 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the NAM with the participation of the heads of 60 countries, including President Rouhani, kicked off in Baku, Azerbaijan on Friday.

The NAM is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.

President Rouhani arrived in Baku on Thursday to attend the 18th NAM Summit, President Rouhani was invited to the NAM summit meeting by Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev.

At the NAM Baku Summit, the Republic of Azerbaijan will take over the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement for the next 3 years.

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Hassan Rouhani: Non-Aligned Movement can take lead in addressing global challenges

The Non-Aligned Movement can take the lead in addressing global challenges, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at the 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku on Oct. 25, Trend reports.

"The Non-Aligned Movement demonstrates its commitment to cooperation and opposes one-sidedness. This summit has been convened during the time when intensification of conflicts is taking place in the world, and all this leads to a violation of international obligations and interference in the internal affairs of states. The Non-Aligned Movement member countries can take the lead in addressing global challenges, including acts of extremism. More coordination is required to protect the interests of states. The Non-Aligned Movement can play a role in protecting the interests of member countries," Rouhani said.

Rouhani noted that regional security is achievable only through cooperation.

One of the threats in the modern world is the insecurity in cyberspace, the Iranian president said adding that the security in cyberspace is a prerequisite for the security of states and member countries of the movement can also cooperate in this area.

The 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement is being held in Baku on Oct. 25-26.

A preparatory meeting of the high-ranking officials of the participating countries was held on Oct. 21-22. The foreign ministers of the participating countries discussed the preparation for the summit on Oct. 23-24.

Representatives of 158 countries and international organizations participate in the summit, including ministers of foreign affairs, heads of state and government and other senior representatives.

Azerbaijan will chair the organization in 2019-2022.

The Non-Aligned Movement, uniting states that did not join any military-political blocs during the Cold War, has transformed into one of the important multilateral mechanisms.

Today, the Non-Aligned Movement is the second political platform after the UN by the number of member states.

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Iran nuclear deal signatories reiterate commitment to pact

United Nations, Sep 26 (Prensa Latina) Iran and the parties to the nuclear deal signed in 2015 agreed to maintain efforts to preserve that pact, considered a milestone of international relations.

During a meeting here this Thursday, cited by international media, there was consensus among representatives of the Islamic Republic, Germany, France, China, the United Kingdom and Russia, plus the head of foreign policy of the European Union (EU), regarding the need to maintain the pact.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Yavad Zarif described as positive the extraordinary meeting between foreign ministers of signatory nations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Federica Mogherini, head of EU foreign policy, assured that all parties are committed to preserving the pact, although this is increasingly difficult.

According to Mogherini, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran agreed to continue efforts to keep the treaty alive, from which the United States withdrew in May 2018 at the behest of President Donald Trump.

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Trump Says He Instructed Treasury to 'Substantially Increase' Sanctions on Iran

US President Donald Trump has stated that he has instructed his administration to ratchet up sanctions on Iran.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" Trump said via Twitter.

The sanctions appear to be part of Trump's response to Iran's alleged involvement in the weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

The statement comes after Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on 17 September that oil production had returned to the previous levels.

Prior to that, Saudi Aramco had to close two of its compounds, the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities, after they were hit by drones and caught fire. The incident led to a cut in oil production totalling 5.7 million barrels per day - about half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil output. The closure of the facilities triggered a surge in oil prices worldwide.

US officials, including Trump, have accused Iran of being responsible for 14 September's attacks. Tehran has strongly denied the accusations. The Houthi movement, against which Riyadh and its allies have waged a four-year war, claimed responsibility for the attack and promised more strikes.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated recently. Relations substantially worsened last year after US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and began re-imposing sanctions. In May and June, Washington blamed Iran for a series of security incidents, including attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and built up its military presence in the Middle East. Iran has rejected the allegations and accused the United States of trying to find a pretext for conflict.

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Iran Rejects US Accusations of Attack on Saudi Arabia

The accusation, in which no proof was presented, was rejected by Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif.

Iran's government dismissed Sunday the United States' claim that Tehran is behind the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, and as warmongering rhetoric escalates fears of an all-out Iran-U.S. conflict reignite in the region.

"Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Sunday, adding that “there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

The accusation, in which no proof was presented, was rejected by Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif, who responded by saying Washington shifted from a failed campaign of “maximum pressure” to one of “maximum lying” and “deceit,” adding that Yemen’s situation won’t be solved by blaming Iran.

Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also criticized Saudi Arabia for fueling the flames of war in the region by committing various war crimes in Yemen and hailed the country for putting up resistance in the face of the aggression.

As tensions increase, President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. believes it “knows” who was behind the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities and is “locked and loaded,” but waiting for verification and for a Saudi assessment of responsibility before deciding how to proceed.

While Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a statement warning that although neither country wants a military conflict if it comes down to it, Iran is prepared for a "full-scale war". The commander of the IRGC aerospace arm Brigadier-General Amir Ali Hajizadeh noted Iran's missiles could hit U.S. bases and ships within a range of 2,000 km.

All this comes as Yemen’s Houthi forces Saturday attacked the state-run oil company Aramco’s Abqaiq plant, the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, in a strike that cut more than half the Kingdom’s output or more than five percent of global oil supply.

A Saudi source told Reuters the damages inflicted on the oil facilities in the recent drone attacks are so massive that it is not clear when the country's oil output can return to normal.

As the world faces a possible production shortage of as much 150 million barrels per month, Trump authorized on Sunday the release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) if needed in a quantity to be determined. While oil prices surged more than 15 percent to their highest level in nearly four months at the open on Sunday.

Dubbed as the “Forgotten War,” the Yemeni civil war started on March 26, 2015, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a coalition of countries in a military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen in support of the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi.

The conflict has since turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran. A narrative rejected by the Houthis who say that they took power from the Saudi-backed government in order to end Saudi interference into the country's affairs.

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Iran seizes vessel in Gulf for allegedly smuggling diesel fuel

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have seized a vessel in the Gulf for allegedly smuggling 250,000 litres of diesel fuel to the United Arab Emirates, Iran’s semi-official Students News agency ISNA reported on Monday.

“It was detained near Iran’s Greater Tunb island in the Persian Gulf...the crew have been handed over to legal authorities in the southern Hormozgan province,” ISNA said, without elaborating on the nationalities of the crewmen.

The reported seizure coincided with raised international tensions following a weekend attack on a major oil installation in Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s longtime regional foe.

Responsibility for the strike was claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, while the United States has blamed Iran itself for the strike. Iran denies the accusation.

Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the fall of its national currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighbouring countries and by sea to Gulf Arab states.

Iran stepped up its fight against smuggling fuel earlier this month when its coast guards seized a vessel for smuggling fuel in the Gulf and detained its 12 Filipino crew members.

In July, Iran seized a British oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations, two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar accused of taking oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran’s Adrian Darya 1, formerly Grace 1, was released last month. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that the British-flagged Steno Impero oil tanker will be released soon.

The latest reported ship seizure by Iran follows a series of incidents involving shipping in and near the Gulf after U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports took full effect in May.

The incidents coincided with stepped up attacks by the Houthis on targets in Saudi Arabia.

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Iran urges US to abandon ‘warmongering’ policy as arch-hawk Bolton leaves White House

Washington should give up its policy of aggression toward Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said. His remarks come hours after outspoken regime-change connoisseur John Bolton stepped down as national security adviser.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani pressed the US to “abandon warmongering and its maximum pressure policy” on Iran, and warned that failing to reverse course would further degrade Tehran’s commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif made similar calls for a US policy U-turn, tweeting on Wednesday that Washington’s “thirst for war” should end with the departure of its “warmonger-in-chief” Bolton.

A government spokesman said after the cabinet meeting that Bolton’s departure could help US policymakers have a “less biased” attitude toward the Islamic republic. Tehran stressed, however, that Bolton’s removal would not change its position on dialogue with Washington.

Also on Better late than never? Bolton’s firing gives Trump a chance to heed his instincts – Ron Paul....

“The departure of US National Security Advisor John Bolton from President Donald Trump’s administration will not push Iran to reconsider talking with the US,” Tehran’s United Nations envoy Majid Takhteravanchi said.

US President Donald Trump announced Bolton’s dismissal on Tuesday, tweeting that he had “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.” Bolton claims that he’d actually resigned before Trump’s announcement.

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