IRAN - SYRIA

Iran’s Zarif holds talks with Syria’s Assad

AFP PHOTO / HO / SANA| A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Damascus on August 12, 2015.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, and called on regional countries to "fight terrorism and extremism".

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"I say to the other (regional) players and to our neighbours that now is the time to care about the truth, answer the aspirations of the Syrian people and work to fight terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism," the top diplomat said.

He did not give details on his discussions with Assad on finding a solution to Syria's four-year war, only describing the exchange of views as "good".

Zarif had been due to discuss a four-point proposal Iran wants to offer to the United Nations to end Syria’s grinding civil war.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday the peace plan was based on "respect for the Syrian people's legitimate right to reforms and to decide their own future".

Iran is one of Assad’s strongest supporters and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to back government forces.

During a stop in Beirut on Tuesday, Zarif did not mention the Syrian war. He said there is “a new opportunity” for all the countries in the region to cooperate against “two regional enemies: The Zionist entity and extremism, terrorism and sectarianism”.

“We are ready to extend our hand for cooperation with all the neighbours and to exchange ideas for joint work against terrorism,” he said after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil.

Ceasefire

Hezbollah’s leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also met with Zarif.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station said Nasrallah and Zarif discussed attempts “to find solutions in more than one country”.

Meanwhile, Al-Manar and Syrian activists said a rare 48-hour ceasefire had started in a Syrian town near the Lebanese border and two Shiite villages in northern Syria between Hezbollah fighters and rebels there.

The cease-fire in Zabadani and the northern villages of Foua and Kfarya went into effect on Wednesday morning.

Hezbollah and Syrian troops have been trying to fully capture the one-time rebel stronghold of Zabadani for more than a month.

A coalition of rebel groups retaliated by attacking Foua and Kfarya in Idlib province, which are home to mostly Shiite villagers. A large number of civilians are trapped there by the fighting.

Zarif had also been due to stop in Turkey on Tuesday as part of his tour of the region, but his visit was postponed at the last moment.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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