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Russian UN envoy: Iran-Saudi Arabia political crisis not to tell on Syria settlement

January 19, 2016, 20:06 UTC+3

Aggravation in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran made many afraid it might adversely tell on the efforts towards Syrian settlement

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Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin

© Alexander Scherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, January 19. /TASS/. The current political crisis in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia should not impact the process of Syrian settlement, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said on Tuesday.

"Aggravation in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran at the begging of this year was an unpleasant surprise as it made many afraid that it might adversely tell on the entire regional situation, on the efforts towards Syrian settlement, on efforts to settle the Yemeni crisis," he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel. "But yesterday, Staffan de Mistura [UN Secretary General’s envoy on Syria] told the Security Council that both the Saudi and the Iranian had assured him that this crisis in their relations would not tell on the Syrian affairs."

Another spiral of the crisis in Riyadh-Tehran relations followed when Saudi Arabia on January 2 executed prominent Shiite theologian cleric Nimr al-Nimr, arrested back in 2012 for criticizing the ruling regime and making calls for the observance of religious minorities’ rights and carrying out a constitutional reform.

In the evening of the same day crowds of furious Iranian demonstrators stormed the building of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran and the consulate office in Mashhad. Riyadh severed relations with Teheran. Bahrain, Sudan and Djibouti supported Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates downgraded the level of diplomatic representation and Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors. Apart from that, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain halted air service with Iran.

Some of UN SC members tried to frustrate beginning of intra-Syrian talks

According to the diplomat, some of the United Nations Security Council members tried to frustrate a meeting on Syria due to begin on January 25.

"In the recent weeks, we have been seeing some of the UN Security Council members trying to somewhat aggravate, dramatize the humanitarian situation in Syria by making the resolution of these or those humanitarian issues dependent on the beginning of the talks," he said in the interview. "So, we consider it as an attempt to frustrate the beginning of the talks."

"As of now, this attempt has been repelled," he said, refraining however to name the countries he was speaking about.

According to the Russian diplomat, the international community had reached the "culmination point" in terms of organizing joint efforts on the Syrian problem. "I mean the establishment of the International Syria Support Group and resolution 2254, the first resolution on political settlement over the years of the crisis that was passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council," Churkin noted.

"A serious momentum has been gained. I think this is a historic chance that cannot be missed," he stressed.

Deployment of foreign land troops in Syria not discussed at int’l venues

The diplomat also pointed out that possible deployment of foreign land troops in Syria has never been discussed at international venues.

"It is out of the question," he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel when asked whether this option was being looked at at international venues.

"Neither the Americans, nor any other Western and, I think, non-Western participants in this drama will ever deploy their land forces," Churkin said.

He noted that attitudes to Russia’s actions in Syria differed greatly at the United Nations venues. "Those who are in sympathy with Russia and correctly understands the motives of our actions, those who do not see it as their talks to overturn the Damascus regime but are really committed to anti-terror efforts as a top-priority task, they, naturally, support Russia’s efforts," the Russian diplomat said.

Western partners, in his words, are still skeptical and say that Russia’s actions that strengthen the positions of the Damascus government are counterproductive as they scare off moderate opposition.

"They [Western partner - TASS] are going into unnecessary details and lack focus in their actions," he added.

Only ‘irresponsible instigators’ can afford to say Bashar al-Assad must step down

Churkin noted that in the current political situation as it is, only "irresponsible instigators" can afford to say that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should go.

"At this moment, they are mere instigators. It is absolutely clear for all that a certain political process has been agreed. It is clear for all that it is necessary to begin talks. The issue of Bashar Assad’s future will be discussed this or that way, since the opposition keeps on speaking about it. But if you are saying he is to step down in any event, you are just an irresponsible instigator," he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel.

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