Iran is optimistic about the six-point peace plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told journalists in Tehran. The plan has been endorsed by Syrian officials, although its call for an end to hostilities has not been implemented. On Thursday, Syrian media quoted President Bashar al-Assad as saying that he would “spare no effort to make this mission successful, since it is hoped that it will contribute to the return of security and stability to the country.”
Turkey’s leaders have pressed Assad to step down, accusing him of leading a brutal crackdown against a year-long uprising. Iran, however, remains staunchly supportive of Assad.
Turkey and Iran, neighboring nations with strong trade ties, are not likely to let their differences squander years of work to build good relations, said Henri Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University. Their mutual desire to remain on good terms could mean that Turkey is one of the few nations with leverage to sway Iran’s position, he said.
“Turkey is very dependent on Iran for energy, and Iran depends on being able to export fuel to Turkey,” Barkey said. “If I were Assad, I would be worried. If the Turks were to convince the Iranians that Assad is done for, the Turks might say, ‘Look, let’s find an alternative solution that you can live with.’ ”
The Syrian crisis also topped the Arab League’s agenda in Baghdad, where leaders gathered amid high security for a summit postponed from last year. Ban urged Syria — which was not represented at the summit because its membership in the league has been suspended — to comply with Annan’s call for an end to hostilities and a daily cease-fire to allow for delivery of humanitarian aid.
“The world is waiting for commitments to be translated into action,” Ban said, according to wire service reports.
Inside Syria, meanwhile, violence continued. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 23 civilians were killed across the country Thursday, including five in the Qalaat al-Madiq area, near the central city of Hama, the scene of fierce battles between security forces and armed protesters in the past week. In addition, the group said, nine armed rebels and 15 members of the Syrian army were killed, including two officers assassinated in the city of Aleppo.
In London, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced Thursday evening that Britain would supply almost $800,000 worth of nonlethal aid to the opposition inside Syria, led by the influential, if fragmented, Syrian National Council.