EU’s diplomatic chief to visit Iran, Saudi for talks on Syria crisis

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini plans to visit Iran and Saudi Arabia this weekend to hold talks with the countries’ senior officials about the ongoing crisis in Syria.

According to an EU statement on Friday, Mogherini will travel to Tehran on Saturday and Riyadh on Sunday “for senior level talks” in line with EU’s bids to “outreach to key actors in the region on the Syrian crisis.”

It added that talks with “regional interlocutors” have already been launched and would continue after the EU diplomatic chief’s visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

She will further continue to liaise constantly with the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in pursuing the 28-nation bloc’s outreach to key players in the region.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told IRNA that the EU’s diplomatic chief will arrive in Tehran late Friday night and begin her meetings and consultations with senior Iranian officials the following day.

“Mogherini will hold talks with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and probably President [Hassan Rouhani] about bilateral cooperation, particularly on Syria’s developments,” Qassemi said.

Mogherini’s trip to Tehran comes after Iran’s foreign minister participated in a day-long three-way meeting between him and his Russian and Syrian counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Walid al-Muallem respectively, in Moscow on Friday on the latest developments in Syria.

Speaking at the end of the Moscow meeting, Zarif said Tehran, Moscow and Damascus should reinforce their cooperation in the campaign against terrorism and stressed the importance of adopting strategies to stop the delivery of weapons and military equipment to the foreign-backed Takfiri militants wreaking havoc in Syria.

“The political settlement of the crisis in Syria will be possible through negotiations between the sides in order to put an end to this crisis,” the Iranian foreign minister said.

Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. Backed by the Russian air cover, the Syrian military is engaged in an operation to rid the country of Daesh and other terrorist groups.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and United Nations special envoy for Syria have put the death toll from the Syria conflict at more than 300,000 and 400,000, respectively.

This is while the UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.

Over the past few weeks, the Syrian forces have wrested control of several areas across the war-torn country as they press ahead with their counter-terrorism operations.

Iran and Russia have similar stances on the ongoing deadly crisis in Syria. Moscow and Tehran reject any foreign interference in the affairs of the war-hit country, stressing that only the Syrians are entitled to decide their own fate.

Iran has been providing military advisory assistance to the Syrian government in its campaign against terrorism. Russia’s aid, meanwhile, has chiefly come in the form of airstrikes against terrorist positions in Syria.