PHOTO: President of the French Senate, Gerard Larcher, and the Supreme Leader’s top aide Ali Akbar Velayati on Sunday
Iran’s officials have tried to shift French political opinion on Syria’s 57-month crisis, hosting meetings with the President of the French Senate on Sunday.
Ali Akbar Velayati, the Supreme Leader’s senior aide on foreign policy, said after the discussion with Gerard Larcher, “We believe that the weakening of regional states could result in the infiltration of terrorism into these countries.”
He linked this to Syria with the declaration that “President Bashar Assad should be admired for his resistance in defending Syria’s territorial integrity from the attacks of terrorist groups in five years”.
Iran is trying to maintain the Assad regime in power, pressing for President Assad’s inclusion in elections at the end of any political transition.
Last month, Paris appeared to move towards acceptance of Assad. The chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, Elisabeth Guigou, said, “French diplomacy has evolved with realism and Bashar El-Assad’s departure is no longer a prerequisite.” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius then stated for the first time that the Syrian army could join other forces fighting the Islamic State.
However, Fabius quickly stepped back, saying cooperation with the regime’s military could only come with an assurance of Assad’s departure. Last week, amid international talks, the Foreign Minister repeated that the Syrian President could not hold power after the transition.
President Rouhani, who also saw Larcher, is visiting France at the end of January.
Velayati maintained yesterday that Iran and France “share common viewpoints on battling terrorism and extremist activities” and that they “dismiss any military solution to the conflict”.
He added that “the Syrian people will decide their own future and that no foreign country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Damascus”.
Iran’s Press TV only gives a brief mention to Larcher’s comments, saying that “he pointed to terrorism as a major threat, underlining that cooperation between regional and international powers is a contributing factor in countering the menace”.
Photo: Rafsanjani Registers for Assembly of Experts Elections
Hoping to regain his chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts, former Hashemi Rafsanjani registers for February’s elections to the body:
Rafsanjani led the Assembly from 2007 to 2011, but lost his bid for re-election as he was ostracized by many factions within the regime.
The former President has had a political resurgence as an ally of the Rouhani Government, raising tensions with Iran’s hardliners. Last week, the conflict flared over Rafsanjani’s call for greater supervision of the Supreme Leader by the Assembly.