PHOTO: An elderly man is taken to the removal point in eastern Aleppo city on Thursday (Karam al-Masri/Getty)
Iran has denied that it blocked a deal for a ceasefire and removals from Syria’s largest city Aleppo, holding up the arrangements for almost 36 hours.
Local sources and activists, both pro-Assad and pro-opposition, said that Tehran overruled the agreement brokered by Russia, the Assad regime’s other major ally, and Turkey. On Wednesday, pro-Assad and Iranian-controlled militias shelled opposition districts, before Moscow and Ankara later restored the deal and removals of some of the 60,000 people in Aleppo’s opposition districts began yesterday.
Reports indicated that Iran objected to the initial agrement because it did not cover the Assad regime’s enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafarya in opposition-controlled Idlib Province. In an apparent concession to Tehran, about 1,000 people were also evacuated from the two villages on Thursday.
However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi insisted that the reports of Iranian preconditions were “propaganda”. He repeated that Iran’s objective is to “establish peace and stability and purge the terrorists from Syria”.
Iranian leaders have congratulated the Assad regime on the capitulation of the opposition in Aleppo, following months of attacks led by foreign forces, including Iranian troops and Iranian-led Iraqi and Afghan militias.
In a phone call to Bashar al-Assad, President Rouhani said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran will stand by the Syrian government and nation until terrorists are fully forced out of the country.”