UK Mideast minister warns Iran must address US concerns beyond nuclear deal

Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2018
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UK Mideast minister warns Iran must address US concerns beyond nuclear deal

LONDON: Iran’s ballistic missile program and the destabilizing role it plays in the region will be high on the agenda of discussions between European leaders and Tehran according to Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.
He said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran.
He made the comments during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat following last week’s announcement by the US president that the US would exit the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“The situation has changed in terms of the US decision,” he said. “But the issues which have concerned the United States and led them to pull out are extremely important and it appears clear that these must be addressed by the Iranians as well. Iran cannot rely solely on its adherence to the JCPOA and not take action in other areas. The UK will continue its obligations under the JCPOA and find ways to involve Iran positively in the region.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said Washington still wants to work with its European partners on an agreement to counter Iran’s “malign behavior.”
Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that he had been asked by the president “to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America.”
Burt urged restraint among all parties to avoid the risk of escalating the crisis while also stressing the right of Israel to defend itself.
Turning to the situation in Syria, Burt said that the UK had advised the Trump administration to remain “engaged and active” militarily and politically in Syria.
He said that the UK advocated a political transition to free Syria from conflict and a leader who had exercised brutality against his own people.
“Firstly the conflict in Syria needs to stop, the fighting need to stop and the UN resolutions for cease-fires need to be respected by all sides in order to give the political process a chance. Secondly the Geneva process should be followed to provide the political space for conclusions to be drawn. Thirdly, it must ultimately be for the people of Syria to make their decisions about their own country and direction and shape that it has. But fourthly, in terms of that ultimate solution to the political issue, everyone should be working toward something where the chance of conflict in the future is completely minimized or eliminated,” he said.
He added: “We would certainly encourage the United States to remain very active in Syria to the extent that if it really wishes to see the defeat of Daesh, it must also ensure that as well as the military defeat of Daesh — circumstances which gave rise to the movement in the first place — are not rekindled and that probably requires a longer term presence from all of us.”

Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat


Turkey to host four-nation summit on Syria crisis

Updated 4 min 24 sec ago
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Turkey to host four-nation summit on Syria crisis

  • Russia and Turkey reached an agreement last month to set up a demilitarized zone around the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib
  • The Kremlin confirmed Vladimir Putin’s participation in the summit
ANKARA, Turkey: A summit between the leaders of Turkey, France, Germany and Russia will be held in Istanbul this month to discuss the conflict in Syria and efforts for a lasting solution to the war in the Arab country, a Turkish official said Friday.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, in a written statement said the summit will take place on October 27.
Russia and Turkey reached an agreement last month to set up a demilitarized zone around the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib preventing a government offensive on the last rebel stronghold in the country.
Idlib has been calm ever since although some militant groups did not meet an Oct. 15 deadline to evacuate the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib province. Many feared that a government offensive in Idlib would trigger a new refugee crisis as the region is home to some 3 million people many of them displaced by war from other parts of Syria.
Russia is a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government while Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.
Kalin said all aspects of the Syrian conflict are expected to be discussed, including the situation on the ground, the Idlib agreement and efforts for a lasting solution to the conflict.
German government spokeswoman Martina Fietz announced that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be attending the summit.
A statement by France’s Elysee Palace said Paris intends primarily to promote the maintenance of the ceasefire in Idlib to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and a new mass wave of refugees, and the effective launch of an inclusive political process in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
“These two objectives will be at the center of discussions between Heads of State and Government,” the statement said.
Security Council resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides of the Syrian conflict “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”
The Kremlin confirmed Vladimir Putin’s participation in the summit and said it would focus on political settlement and conditions for the return of Syrian refugees.
Asked if the Kremlin was expecting a breakthrough at the meeting, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA Novosti news agency that “this meeting is not about breakthroughs.”