Iran leader offers to broker Syria talks

AFP: Iranian President Hassan Rowhani says his government is ready to “help facilitate dialogue” between the Syrian government and the opposition.
“We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates,” Rowhani wrote in a column in the Washington Post.

In his latest bid since becoming president in August to reach out to the international community, Rowhani said he wanted to pursue a policy of “constructive engagement”.

Rowhani, who has asked to meet French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week, said his counterparts should “seize the opportunity presented” by his election.

“I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.”

The new Iranian president’s offer is likely to be eyed warily in Washington, where the Obama administration has repeatedly accused Iran of helping to prop up the Syrian regime in the brutal civil war by providing weapons, manpower and money.

Rowhani insisted that “a constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights.

“It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives,” he wrote.

“A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss,” he said, adding that in many places “unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches”.

“The unilateral approach, which glorifies brute force and breeds violence, is clearly incapable of solving issues we all face, such as terrorism and extremism,” insisted Rowhani, a moderate on Iran’s political scene.

“My approach to foreign policy seeks to resolve these issues by addressing their underlying causes. We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart.”