CAIRO, Sept 18, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, Sept 18, 2012 (AFP)
Foreign ministers of the regional “contact group” on Syria agreed at talks in Cairo to hold more consultations in New York later this month, the official MENA news agency reported on Tuesday.
The top diplomats of Egypt, Turkey and Iran met in Cairo to discuss developments in conflict-stricken Syria, but Saudi Arabia, which is also a member of the group, was notably absent from the meeting.
The ministers agreed to “hold their next meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month,” MENA reported.
“It is too early to say we have come up with any specifics,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr said after the talks.
The gathering of the “contact group” — an initiative by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi — follows preparatory talks a week ago in Cairo held by lower-ranking officials from the four countries’ foreign ministries.
“We exchanged views to reach a plan as soon as possible to end the bloodshed in Syria,” he said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stressed Saudi’s participation was crucial.
“Consultations with Saudi Arabia are necessary because the kingdom is a key player in the attempt to reach a solution to the Syrian crisis,” he said.
The reasons for the absence of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s traditional rival in the region, were not immediately clear but Amr said the kingdom’s foreign minister “had previous commitments.”
Among the proposals put forward at the talks, Iran is suggesting it, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey dispatch observers to its ally Syria in an effort to quell the violence there, Iranian state media reported.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also offered to host the group’s next meeting in Tehran, the official news agency IRNA and broadcaster IRIB said.
Salehi told his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts in Cairo that “observers” from their countries, and from Saudi Arabia, could “monitor the process of stopping the violence in Syria,” according to IRNA.
He also called for peace talks “to help the process of fundamental reforms and finding a democratic approach in Syria.”
Salehi appealed for “a simultaneous halt in clashes and violence by the sides in Syria, insisted on a peaceful solution without foreign intervention and a halt to financial, military and training support for the Syrian opposition,” IRNA reported, without giving a source.
The United Nations last month put an end to its own observer mission to Syria that was established in April, after a ceasefire between regime forces and rebels failed to take hold.
Iran’s strong support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad contrasts with the positions of the other three members of the regional group.
Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are all demanding Assad step down in order to bring peace to Syria, where more than 20,000 people have been killed since an uprising broke out in March 2011.
Iran accuses Turkey and Saudi Arabia of supplying or facilitating military support to Syria’s rebels.
International peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who just finished afour-day visit to Damascus during which he met Assad and opposition members, was said by an Arab diplomat to have joined the meeting.