Iran’s defence minister has said Saudi Arabia should be excluded from the Syrian peace process, as a nationwide ceasefire came into effect today.
Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said in an interview with Russian state media RT on Tuesday that Saudi’s desire to topple the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad meant that Tehran’s regional rival should not play any role in future peace talks.
“They are seeking to topple the existing regime. No talks should be allowed with those who are eager [for regime change]. We must give them a decisive answer,” Dehghan said.
The senior Iranian official also directed some of his ire at Turkey, one of the main brokers alongside Russia of the countrywide ceasefire, accusing them of supporting “terrorist groups” including Daesh and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front.
“If Iran, Russia and Syria were to reach an agreement with Turkey to end Turkish support for those terrorist groups, particularly Daesh and the Al-Nusra Front, and start fighting them, then I think we would see the situation in Syria improve,” Dehghan said.
His comments are likely to raise eyebrows in Ankara. Turkey launched “Operation Euphrates Shield” last August in an attempt to fight Daesh and Kurdish leftist extremists. It has also suffered from several Daesh bombings that have killed hundreds of Turkish citizens, terrorism that Iran has notably been spared.
Dehghan also levelled the same accusations of supporting terrorism against Saudi Arabia, but made no comment on the fact that Iranian Shia jihadists from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan had flocked to Tehran’s call to fight a holy war in Syria.
Diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia broke sharply when an anti-Riyadh mob angered by the execution of a Saudi Arabian Shia cleric ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January. Although the Iranian regime initially condemned the attack, recent reports indicate that they had given the green light for the Saudi diplomatic mission to be targeted.