'Hope they come to their senses': Tehran summit ends with call for Idlib terrorists to lay down arms

Turkey seems to have prevailed during tripartite talks with Russia and Iran, convincing the other parties that a major offensive in Syria's Idlib governorate would not be the wisest move at the moment.

The situation in Syria was discussed in Tehran on Friday by Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani as part of the so-called "Astana process." The leaders of Iran and Turkey disagreed on what action should be taken in Syria's Idlib, the last major stronghold of armed groups in the country, which is dominated by hardcore jihadists.

 
FILE PHOTO: The US flag on a military vehicle in Manbej countryside, Syria © Aboud Hamam

All three nations agree that the threat of radical Islamists in Syria must be eliminated, but differ as to how this should be achieved. Rouhani advocated a strong-arm approach, claiming it would secure an end to major hostilities in the seven-year-old conflict.

"We have to realize that only the destruction of the terrorists, a military victory against them, can ensure stability and peace in the future in Syria and not only in that country," he said.

Erdogan reiterated his government's concern over the potential death toll of an offensive in highly populated Idlib, where an estimated 3.5 million people are currently living. Turkey, which borders the Syrian governorate, is also objecting to a major operation there because it would likely cause a major exodus of refugees across the border, with extremists potentially sneaking in with refugees.

"[The refugees] would have no other way to go but Turkey. But we have already accepted 3.5 million refugees. Turkey cannot take in more," said President Erdogan.

"Our goal is to resolve the situation in Idlib according to the spirit of the agreements we made in Astana," Erdogan added, warning that "mistakes in Idlib may derail the political process in Syria."

The Iranian president eventually agreed that civilians living in Idlib should not become victims of an anti-terrorist effort.

Call to end violence

At Erdogan's suggestion, the final communique of the summit was amended to include a call for all armed groups in Idlib to lay down arms and seek a political transition in the country. Putin and Rouhani agreed, which may indicate that a major offensive in Idlib is not likely to be launched in the immediate future, unless some major development happens on the ground. The Russian president remarked that the call is addressed to all armed groups in the Syrian province, including UN-designated terrorist groups.

"Let us hope that the members of the terrorist organizations would have enough sense to stop resistance and lay down weapons," he said.

"Our agreements on Syria were always based on a premise that we are seeking to ensure peace between all belligerents, but kept the terrorist organizations bracketed out," he remarked.

@Khaaasteh While final statement of was about to be passed, Erdogan suddenly questioned the text and called for inclusion of "ceasefire" in the statement. The presidents are now negotiating and bargaining live on TV !

As he was arguing against an offensive in Idlib, Erdogan acknowledged that armed groups controlling the governorate pose a credible threat, including to Russian military personnel stationed at Khmeimim Airbase. He suggested that regular drone attacks on the Russian military site should be stopped by pushing those launching them out of range.

During the summit, Rouhani and Erdogan were united in their criticism of the presence of US troops in Syria. The Iranian president repeatedly stressed that foreign influence was a major factor in escalating the war in Syria, and called on the US to withdraw the troops that it has illegally deployed in Syria. Erdogan reiterated Ankara's objection to the support that the US gives Kurdish militias in northern Syria, which are perceived as a major security threat by the Turkish government.

Return of refugees key to resolving violence

Putin's remarks on the situation in Syria tilted towards humanitarian aspects and the necessity to reconstruct the country. He said that many people who had fled violence in Syria to other nations may now return to their homes.

 
© Umit Bektas

"Conditions have been made in Syria to take in up to a million of refugees. The government has provided security guarantees to all returnees, assuring that they would not be subjected to discrimination, including in terms of property rights," he said.

The Russian president argued that, if as many Syrians as possible get a chance to return to peaceful lives, it would give an impetus to a political resolution of the conflict between the Syrian government and the so-called "moderate opposition." Erdogan disagreed with Putin, saying that the return of refugees to Syria would only be possible after a new constitution is agreed and adopted, and an election held to form a new government.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are seeking to end violence in Syria and facilitate negotiations between its government and opposition groups, which agree to cease hostilities and seek a political transition for their country. The desired outcome is a peaceful Syria under a government that properly represents all its minorities and is in control of all its territory. The final resolution of the conflict, which was greatly complicated by foreign interference and the rise of jihadist groups, is expected to be negotiated in Geneva under the aegis of the UN.

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‘No need for aliens’: Iran says it doesn't want foreign ships in Persian Gulf

The Iranian navy are “vigilantly controlling” the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and there is no need for the naval presence of “alien” countries, Tehran’s new naval chief has declared.

“We can ensure the security of the Persian Gulf and there is no need for the presence of aliens like the US and the countries whose home is not in here,” Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, head of the naval branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said on Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Having “outsiders” operate nuclear-powered ships in the Gulf creates potential environmental problems not just for Iran but its Arab neighbors as well, Tangsiri said. He also accused Iran’s enemies of misrepresenting reality “in order to deploy forces to the region and sell their weapons.”

Tangsiri’s comments were reported with alarm in the US media, complete with warnings that Tehran might decide to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for Gulf oil exports. Tankers carry 18.5 million barrels of crude oil through the strait every day.

 
FILE PHOTO. © Hamed Jafarnejad

The Iranian admiral’s words are guaranteed to ruffle the feathers of the US military, which sees itself as the principal protector of “security and stability” in the Gulf. The US and its Arab allies “stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” Lieutenant Chloe Morgan, spokesperson for the US Naval Forces Central Command, told Fox News on Monday.

The already uneasy relations between Washington and Tehran have plummeted since May, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Though European powers, Russia and China have not repudiated the deal, the US has already reimposed some of the sanctions that were suspended and is threatening to punish anyone doing business with Iran.

Tehran has responded by unveiling new homemade weapons, including a fighter jet and a short-range ballistic missile, as well as conducting naval drills with small boats in the Strait of Hormuz.

Earlier this month, Obama’s former national security adviser General James Jones described Iran as an “existential threat” to the region, in an interview with the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National.

“I personally would like to see, if they ever did something in the Strait of Hormuz, I would like to see their navy disappear,” said Jones, who now serves as the interim chairman of the Atlantic Council think tank.

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Iran To Open Lawsuit Against US Sanctions In World Court

The Hague: Iran will argue Monday against renewed sanctions imposed by the United States, as a bitter legal battle between Tehran and Washington opens before the UN's top court.

US President Donald Trump reimposed a wave of tough unilateral sanctions on Iran three weeks ago, bringing back into effect harsh penalties that had been lifted under a landmark 2015 agreement.

A second round of measures is to come into effect in early November, targeting Iran's valuable oil and energy sector.

Tehran filed its case before the International Court of Justice in late July, calling on the Hague-based tribunal's judges to order the immediate lifting of sanctions, which it said would cause "irreparable prejudice."

The US had no right to reinstate such measures, Tehran added, as it demanded compensation for damages.

Iran maintained restoring the penalties lifted under the historic 2015 deal, aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions, violated a decades-old treaty signed between the two nations in 1955.

The ICJ -- set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between countries -- is expected to take a couple of months to decide whether to grant Tehran's request for a provisional ruling, while a final decision in the case may actually still take years.

Trump described the 2015 deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as Germany, as a "horrible one-sided deal (that) failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to a Iranian nuclear bomb."

Even though all of the other parties pleaded with him not to abandon the pact, Trump pulled out and announced he would reinstate sanctions.

'Neither war, nor negotiations'

Tehran -- which argues that the move violates the little-known 1955 Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations -- says that the new sanctions are already hurting its economy. Iran's currency the rial has lost around half its value since April.

A raft of international companies -- including France's Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany's Siemens and Daimler -- have suspended operations in Iran in the wake of the move.

Both Air France and British Airways announced Thursday they were halt flights to Tehran next month, saying they were not commercially viable, but the British carrier added the decision was unrelated to the new tranche of sanctions.

In his executive order, Trump argued that the sanctions would turn up the financial pressure on Tehran to come to a "comprehensive and lasting solution" regarding activities that the international community regarded as "malign" such as Iran's "ballistic missile programme and its support for terrorism."

Earlier this month, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to rule out any immediate prospect of talks, saying "there will be neither war, nor negotiations," with the US.

Washington's lawyers will present their case on Tuesday, with experts believing they are to challenge the ICJ's jurisdiction.

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Ormuz Strait in Iran's Sight due to U.S. Sanctions

Tehran, Aug 3 (Prensa Latina) Iran repeated the possibility of closing the Strait of Ormuz, waterway moving 20 percent of the world''s oil, in response to the threats and sanctions of the United States.

'If the tap of oil and petrodollars is opened, they only go to the pocket of those threatening Iran. It will logically affect the security of the Strait', stressed the chief of Iran's Navy, Counteradmiral Hosein Janzadi, quoted by the IRNA News Agency.

This week, Janzadi launched a similar warning that the 'unjust sanctions (of the U.S.) against Iran' can have consequences on the navigation through the geographic accident separating this nation from Oman.

That point is the sea outlet of the countries with coasts in the Persian gulf, great producers of oil and gas.

At the beginning of last month, the deputy chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, general Ismail Kosari, declared that if restricted the Iranian oil exports, they will not allow the extraction of crude through the Strait of Ormuz.

In a similar sense spoke Iranian deputy minister of Foreign Relations, Abbas Araqchi.

Tension in the zone escalated after the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump, to abandon unilaterally the nuclear pact signed with Tehran three years ago, and imposing new sanctions against Iran, actions rejected by the international community.

Among them, stand out the pressures of Washington on other nations to stop buying Iranian oil, main export item of this nation.

Recently, during a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, threatened with a military response if Iran closes the strait.

'We will make sure that maritime routes stay open, this is a long-standing U.S. policy and we are prepared to keep it', underlined Pompeo in an interview with the Emirate newspaper The National.

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Iran Rejects Trump Offer Of Talks As A Dream, Without Value

LONDON: Senior Iranian officials and military commanders on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's offer of talks without preconditions as worthless and "a dream", saying his words contradicted his action of reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump's repudiation of an international nuclear deal reached in 2015 was "illegal" and Iran would not easily yield to Washington's renewed campaign to strangle Iran's vital oil exports.

In May, Trump pulled the United States out of the multilateral deal concluded before he took office, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran's favour. On Monday, he said that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations.
Iran's foreign minister said that Washington should blame itself for ending talks with Tehran when it withdrew from the nuclear deal.

"U.S. can only blame itself for pulling out and leaving the table...Threats, sanctions and PR stunts won't work," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet.

The foreign ministry spokesman said Trump's offer to negotiate with Tehran contradicted his actions as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic Republic.

"Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue," Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by Fars news agency on Tuesday.

The head of the powerful Revolutionary Guards equally dismissed Trump's tentative offer, saying the Islamic Republic was not North Korea.

"Mr Trump! Iran is not North Korea to accept your offer for a meeting," Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Fars News agency.

"Even U.S. presidents after you will not see that day," he added.

The head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations said Tehran saw no value in Trump's offer, made only a week after he warned Iran it risked dire consequences if it made threats against Washington.

"Based on our bad experiences in negotiations with America and based on U.S. officials' violation of their commitments, it is natural that we see no value in his proposal," Kamal Kharrazi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

The Strategic Council on Foreign Relations was set up by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to help formulate long-term policies for Iran.

NO MEETING PLANNED

Trump's move to force Iran into new negotiations has for now reunited Iranian hardliners who opposed the nuclear deal and pragmatists like Rouhani who championed it to Iran's economically crippling stand-off with Western powers.

Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of parliament who is seen as part of the moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now "would be a humiliation".

"If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America," he told state news agency IRNA.

A senior State Department official said on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not meet with his Iranian counterpart during a meeting of Southeast Asian nations in Singapore this weekend.

Israel, which opposed the nuclear deal and encouraged Trump to withdraw from it, seems not concerned with the U.S. offer to meet Iranian leaders.

A senior Israeli official told Reuters on Tuesday: "Israel is in continuous contact with the American administration. Senior American officials have stated that there is no change in America's firm policy on Iran."

Under the 2015 deal, the fruit of Rouhani's efforts to ease Iran's international isolation to help revive its economy, Iran curbed its nuclear programme and won relief from U.N. and Western sanctions in return.

NUCLEAR PACT IN JEOPARDY

Trump condemned the deal in part because it did not cover Iran's ballistic missile programme and involvement in Middle East conflicts. He reactivated U.S. sanctions, the most all-encompassing measures against Iran, and warned countries to stop importing Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or risk U.S. penalties.

European signatories to the deal have been searching for ways to salvage it but cautioned Tehran that they may not be able to persuade many investors not to bolt from business with Iran to avoid U.S. punishment.

Rouhani said during a meeting with Britain's ambassador on Tuesday that after what he called the "illegal" U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, "the ball is in Europe's court now".

He added, "The Islamic Republic has never sought tension in the region and does not want any trouble in global waterways, but it will not easily give up on its rights to export oil."

Rouhani and some senior military commanders have said Iran could disrupt oil shipments from Gulf states through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington tries to choke off Iranian oil exports.

Reiterating Tehran's official stance, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency that the strait would remain open "if Iran's national interests are preserved".

Iran's OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, told Reuters on Tuesday that Trump was mistaken if he expected Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to compensate for losses of Iranian oil caused by U.S. sanctions.

"It seems President Trump has been taken hostage by Saudi Arabia and a few producers when they claimed they can replace 2.5 million barrels per day of Iranian exports, encouraging him to take action against Iran," Ardebili said.

"Now they and Russia sell more oil and more expensively. Not even from their incremental production but their stocks."

He said oil prices, which Trump has been pressuring the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to bring down by raising output, will instead rise unless the United States grants waivers to buyers of Iranian crude.

Iran's currency plumbed new depths on Monday, dropping past 120,000 rials to the dollar, but Trump's expressed willingness to negotiate with Tehran sparked a minor recovery on Tuesday to 110,000 rials on the unofficial market.

Videos on social media showed hundreds of people rallying in Isfahan in central Iran, and Karaj near Tehran, in protest at high prices caused in part by the rial's devaluation under heightened U.S. pressure.

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Iran threatens to cut cooperation with nuclear body after Trump move

LONDON (Reuters) - Iran could reduce its co-operation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, President Hassan Rouhani told the body’s head on Wednesday, after he warned U.S. President Donald Trump of “consequences” of fresh sanctions against Iranian oil sales.

In May, Trump pulled out of a multinational deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear program, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Washington has since told countries they must stop buying Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face financial measures.

“Iran’s nuclear activities have always been for peaceful purposes, but it is Iran that would decide on its level of cooperation with the IAEA,” Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying after meeting IAEA head Yukiya Amano in Vienna.

“The responsibility for the change of Iran’s cooperation level with the IAEA falls on those who have created this new situation,” he added.

Rouhani said earlier in the day Tehran would stand firm against U.S. threats to cut Iranian oil sales.

“The Americans say they want to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero ... It shows they have not thought about its consequences,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by IRNA.

On Tuesday, Rouhani hinted at a threat to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries if Washington tries to cut its exports.

He did not elaborate, but an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander explicitly said on Wednesday Iran would block any exports of crude for the Gulf in retaliation for hostile U.S. action.

“If they want to stop Iranian oil exports, we will not allow any oil shipment to pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Ismail Kowsari was quoted as saying by the Young Journalists Club (YJC) website.

Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds force, in charge of foreign operations for the Revolutionary Guards, said in a letter published on IRNA: “I kiss your (Rouhani’s) hand for expressing such wise and timely comments, and I am at your service to implement any policy that serves the Islamic Republic.”

“SELF HARM”

Rouhani, in Vienna trying to salvage the nuclear deal, said U.S. sanctions were a “crime and aggression”, and called on European and other governments to stand up to Trump.

“Iran will survive this round of U.S. sanctions as it has survived them before. This U.S. government will not stay in office forever ... But history will judge other nations based on what they do today,” he said.

Rouhani told reporters that if the remaining signatories - the Europeans Britain, France and Germany as well as China and Russia - can guarantee Iran’s benefits: “Iran will remain in the nuclear deal without the United States.”

Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said on the Iranian oil ministry news agency SHANA:

“Trump’s demand that Iranian oil should not be bought, and (his) pressures on European firms at a time when Nigeria and Libya are in crisis, when Venezuela’s oil exports have fallen due to U.S. sanctions, when Saudi’s domestic consumption has increased in summer, is nothing but self harm.

“It will increase the prices of oil in the global markets,” he said. “At the end it is the American consumer who will pay the price for Mr. Trump’s policy.”

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, has vowed to keep the 2015 deal alive without the United States by trying to keep Iran’s oil and investment flowing. But European officials acknowledge that U.S. sanctions make it difficult to give Tehran guarantees.

Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories will meet Iranian officials in Vienna on Friday to discuss how to keep the accord alive.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; additional reporting Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle in Vienna; Editing by Toby Chopra and Robin Pomeroy.

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Cuba and Iran want to expand their economic, commercial and cooperation ties

The Iranian president, Hasan Rohani, moved a message to the Cuban leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel, through his first deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Morteza Sarmadi, who makes a working visit to the Island. 

Sarmadi delivered the message -of whose content details have not been given- to the Vice President and Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas, who received it on Wednesday in Havana.

During the meeting, the Cuban vice president and the Iranian deputy minister discussed the potential to expand the economic, commercial and cooperation ties that exist between both countries, said the Cuban News Agency (ACN).

Cabrisas and Sarmadi also They congratulated the "good march" of the bilateral relations between Cuba and Iran, according to the report.

Cabrisas and Sarmadi also congratulated themselves for the "good a march "of bilateral relations between Cuba and Iran

In the meeting participated by the Iranian side, the director of the regional office of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Chancery of the Persian nation, Ahmad Pabarja, and the ambassador in Cuba, Kambiz Sheikh Hassani

In addition, the general director of bilateral affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Island, Emilio Lozada, was present. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, also greeted Sarmadi.

Cuba and Iran maintain a close bilateral relationship, which led in February 2017 to the signing of twelve agreements for the exemption of diplomatic and service visas, and other areas.

In September 2016, the island received the visit of Iranian President Hasan Rohaní, who met with the then-president of the country, Raúl Castro, with whom he signed a cooperation agreement in the health, education, research, medicine and medical technology.

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Quds Day ceremony held in Cuba

The ceremony held in cooperation with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) was attended by several Cuban officials, representatives of Palestinian organizations as well as foreign ambassadors and diplomats residing in the country.

The Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples Jose Prieto appreciated Iran’s Embassy for holding the event and said that Quds Day is an international day.

Condemning the Zionist regime’s crimes against the Palestinian nation, he reiterated his country’s support for the cause of Palestine.

Iran’s Ambassador to Cuba also described the Palestinian nation’s plight as a 70-year wound, condemning the Zionist regime’s crimes against Palestinian demonstrators in the past two months.

Referring to illegal relocation of US Embassy to Quds which runs counter to international regulations, he said that the move escalated the situation in Palestine.

International Quds Day—which is marked on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan—was initiated by the late founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

  • Published in Cuba
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