January 1, 2017
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has conferred with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about the Syrian crisis, in their fourth phone call within a month.
As usual, the President’s summary and that of Iranian State media are short of detail. However, it is notable that Rouhani and Putin said the continuing battle against “terrorist groups” includes the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham as well as the Islamic State.
The version of Thursday’s agreement — brokered by Russia and Turkey and signed by Syrian rebels — excludes only ISIS from the ceasefire. However, the version accepted by the Assad regime, and the one backed by Iran, also excluded JFS. That pretext is being used to cover attacks by pro-Assad forces breaking the ceasefire.
Rouhani’s account emphasized that the two men discussed next month’s proposed meeting in Kazakhstan between the Assad regime and opposition groups. He said “more coordination and consultation among countries is essential” before the summit.
The President also stressed the importance of sending more humanitarian aid to besieged areas. He did not specify whether this included assistance to the vast majority of Syrians affected by sieges, living in opposition towns still cut off by pro-Assad forces.
The Kremlin said only: “Today Russian President Vladimir Putin has a phone conversation with President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani. They stressed the importance of the reached agreements on the cessation of hostilities in Syria and the launch of negotiations in Astana.”
The discussion came as Tehran hosted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, including a meeting with Rouhani.
The head of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, declared in a session with al-Moallem and the head of the Assad regime’s Security Bureau, Ali Mamlouk, that Damascus had won a “terrorist world war against the country”.