Call for ceasefire before peace talks

25 November 2013 7:09 PM

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Call for ceasefire before peace talks

Tehran and Ankara will press for a ceasefire in Syria before peace talks, dubbed Geneva 2, planned for January, Iran's top diplomat says.

''All our efforts should be carried out to finish the conflict and reach a ceasefire even before Geneva 2,'' Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu.

''Iran and Turkey have similar standpoints on several issues, including that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis,'' Mr Zarif said.

Mr Davutoglu also voiced support for efforts aimed at reaching a ceasefire in Syria.

Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime; Turkey has strongly backed the rebels trying to overthrow him.

The conference, sponsored by Russia and the US, is scheduled to be held on January 22, but its participants are still undecided.

The Syrian government has committed to the talks but says its official delegation will attend with the blessing of Dr Assad and that it does not intend ''to hand over power to anyone''.

The negotiations are meant to lead to the creation of a transitional government with full executive powers to lead the country out of the crisis. But the role of Dr Assad in that government remains a sticking point, as rebels have repeatedly said a peace solution must include his removal from power.

For its part, the Syrian government frequently refers to the rebels as terrorists and says it will attend the talks as a means of ''getting rid of terrorism''.

It has also said it will not negotiate with those who have taken up arms against the state.

The regime also criticised Britain and France for saying that Dr Assad has no role in Syria's future.

''Our people will not let anyone steal their exclusive right to decide their future and their leadership,'' a statement said.

US officials have told Associated Press the Obama administration is offering to destroy some of Syria's deadliest chemical weapons in international waters aboard a US government-owned ship.

The plan would involve destroying the weapons in the Mediterranean Sea, with US navy warships patrolling nearby.

The US would use what it calls a mobile field deployable hydrolysis system to neutralise the weapons. The titanium reactor uses heated water and other chemicals to make the chemical warfare material inert.

Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they expected a decision soon and the operation would begin by year's end.


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