Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem 311 (R).
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
In Tehran on Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said that his country was committed to Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.
Moualem arrived to discuss the Syria crisis with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, and other senior officials, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported.
Speaking at a press conference – the first time he has appeared in public since a Damascus bomb attack killed four of President Bashar Assad’s most senior officials on July 18 – Moualem said the Annan plan was the only way to resolve the crisis because it would prevent external interference in Syria and allow for a political solution.
The Annan plan aims to end 16 months of violence in Syria, during which 18,000 people have been killed.
It calls for a cease-fire as a first stage in the political transition to ending the violence.
It also calls for access for aid, the release of arbitrarily detained people, freedom of movement for journalists and the freedom to protest peacefully.
The Syrian foreign minister blamed “terrorist groups” for the violence in his country, and said Syria was capable of defending “every inch of its soil.”
Moualem added that the violence served the interests of the “Zionist entity” – in other words, Israel – according to the Syrian General Organization of Radio and TV, a state-run agency subordinate to the Ministry of Information.
Syrian state media reported that Moualem and Salehi had both agreed there was a “focused campaign by the US, the West and also some Arab countries” against Syria.
Moualem accused Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of intervening in his country.
“Syria today is stronger in the face of aggression. Last week, they were defeated and the battle failed [in Damascus] so they moved on to Aleppo, and their plots will fail there also,” Moualem said.
On the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, Moualem said that “regardless of whether we do or do not have such nonconventional weapons, the fact that Israel has aggressive nuclear capabilities has been recognized by the US.” The foreign minister added that part of Syria’s territory was “under Israeli occupation.”
“Apart from that, we have said repeatedly that we are ready to establish a zone free from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction,” he said, noting that Syria presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council in 2003 calling for a “zone free of weapons of mass destruction [in the Middle East], in particular nuclear weapons.”
Moualem said Syria would agree to nonproliferation of chemical weapons if Israel signs the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Meanwhile, Salehi said Israel was behind a “global conspiracy” against Syria, and added that the Syrian leadership had worked to meet the demands of the Syrian people and carried out a series of reforms “for pluralism and democracy.”
“It is naive to imagine the illusion of a power vacuum in Syria,” the Iranian foreign minister said.
In its report of the talks between Moualem and Salehi, the ISNA said the two foreign ministers called for an end to “foreign interference” in Syria and blamed the bloodshed on terrorist groups.
Salehi said Syria was “a friend and a brother country,” according to ISNA.
During the press conference, Moualem also said that Syria was depending on Lebanon to secure its borders and prevent “the infiltration of terrorists” from its territory.
The comments came after Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon called on the Lebanese government on Friday to take stricter measures to prevent “armed groups” from entering Syria.
Also on Sunday, Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, head of the Druse community in his country, told Beirut’s An- Nahar newspaper that the Syrian regime had a “presence in Lebanon” and said some Lebanese security agencies were receiving orders from Damascus. Jumblatt also slammed Hezbollah’s support of Assad’s regime.Reuters contributed to this report.