Iran's Foreign Minister welcomes Arab outreach to Syria after earthquake

Bashar Al Assad has been politically isolated in the region since the start of his country's conflict in 2011

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Damascus. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has welcomed the move by Arab nations to reach out to Syria's isolated government following an earthquake that struck Turkey and the war-torn country last month.

He made the remarks during a trip to Damascus on Thursday.

Mr Amirabdollahian said Tehran, which has backed Damascus during its 12 years of conflict, would join efforts to reconcile Syria and Turkey, which has long supported rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Mr Al Assad has been politically isolated in the region since the start of Syria's war in 2011, triggered by the government's suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations, with his country expelled from the Cairo-based Arab League.

But since the earthquake, Arab leaders have made overtures to his government.

“We welcome the recent opening of Syrian relations with some countries,” Mr Amirabdollahian said during a press conference with his Syrian counterpart, according to an Arabic translation provided at the event.

Late last month, Egypt's Sameh Shoukry became the third Arab foreign minister to meet Mr Al Assad since the February 6 earthquake killed more than 50,000 people in total, with about 6,000 dead in Syria.

The Syrian leader has also received calls and earthquake aid, which has been spearheaded by the UAE.

Analysts said Syria's isolated government could use this momentum to bolster regional support.

Mr Amirabdollahian landed on Thursday in quake-hit Latakia province before flying to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where he met Mr Al Assad and his Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

In talks with Mr Al Assad, he said Tehran would join meetings to “build a dialogue between Damascus and Ankara”, the Syrian presidency said.

Mr Amirabdollahian also said Iran was satisfied “with the path of rapprochement between Syria and Arab countries”.

With Russian and Iranian support, Damascus has clawed back much of the ground lost in the early stages of the war.

In late December, Syrian and Turkish defence ministers held talks in Moscow — the first such meeting since Syria's war began.

Mr Al Assad had said in January that a Russian-brokered rapprochement with Turkey should aim for the end of Ankara's “occupation” of parts of Syria.

The mooted reconciliation has alarmed Syrian opposition leaders and supporters who reside mostly in parts of the country under Ankara's indirect control.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, which has also sent quake aid to Syria, said last month that consensus was building in the Arab world that a new approach requiring negotiations with Damascus would be needed to address humanitarian crises, including the quake.

Updated: March 10, 2023, 7:05 AM