PHOTO: Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian


Trying to rebuild its diplomatic offensive over the Syrian conflict, Iran has appealed for Turkey’s cooperation.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Thursday that the preservation of Turkey’s security is “an important issue” for Tehran. He said that the only solution to the 4 1/2-year conflict is political resolution, and that President Assad proposed “constructive ideas” during Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Damascus on Wednesday.

At the same time, Amir Abdollahian tried to push back Ankara’s proposal for a “safe zone” in northern Syria, 98 km (61 miles) long and 40 km (25 miles) deep. He said the area in Aleppo Province along the Turkish border would be a violation of Syria’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

Iran’s “peace initiative” for Syria, pursued with Russia — another key ally of Assad — since late June, was checked on Tuesday by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. At a press conference in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, al-Jubeir rattled the Russians by saying that the Syrian President must step down for any negotiations to be pursued.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Beirut to see Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, immediately postponed his next step in Ankara and instead went to Damascus to see Assad.

Zarif denounced the Saudis on Thursday, saying they needed to “learn the truth” about the Syrian situation, and said he would be travelling to Turkey next week.

See Iran Daily, August 13: FM Zarif on Collapse of Syria Peace Initiative — “Saudi Arabia Should See the Truth”

Sources: Indian Refiners Preparing to Pay $1.4 Billion in Oil Dues to Iran

Unnamed sources have said that India’s refiners have been instructed to prepare to pay Iran $1.4 billion in oil dues.

The two sources said Indian Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi asked refiners this month to prepare payment of two installments of $700 million each, part of the money owed for oil imports.

India’s payments for the oil have been restricted because of US-led sanctions on Tehran, notably the cut-off of funds through Turkey’s Halkbank in early 2013. The instructions point to expectation that the sanctions will be eased or lifted as the July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers is implemented.

The head of finance at Indian Oil Corporation, A.K. Sharma, said, “Some payment may happen this month. We are waiting for instruction [from the Finance Ministry).”

Despite the instruction, confirmation appears to be dependent on Washington. A source said the Finance Ministry is seeking clearance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury to proceed.

India is Iran’s biggest oil customer after China, but New Delhi has reduced purchases under pressure from sanctions — Tehran has slipped from second to seventh among suppliers.

India’s top oil refiners owe almost $6.5 billion to Iran.