KUWAIT (Reuters) – Iran backs the idea of a ceasefire in Syria during an Islamic holiday next week and believes free elections are the right way to help resolve the 19-month-old conflict, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said according to Iran’s state news agency.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the international mediator on Syria, has proposed that both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters seeking his overthrow stop fighting during the Eid al Adha festival, which starts next week.
Brahimi has appealed to leaders in Iran – Assad’s strongest regional ally – to support the idea.
Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday he had made the same proposal during talks this week with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, IRNA reported.
“Of course war cannot be a suitable solution and any group that derives power through war and means to continue war has no future,” Ahmadinejad told reporters after an Asian summit in Kuwait, IRNA reported.
“Anyone who is the friend of the Syrian people should try to form the basis for free elections in the country. The ceasefire and negotiations on free elections in my view is the correct road to resolution.”
Turkey, one of Assad’s staunchest opponents, said it also supported the ceasefire proposal.
“The Arab League, Turkey and Iran have declared their support for this proposal,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference in Ankara, saying he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart on the matter.
Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, said on Wednesday that Syria’s civil war risks spilling across borders to engulf the Middle East. Thirty-thousand people have been killed in the uprising, which has taken on sectarian overtones, pitting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against a president from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.
There are fears of broader Middle East sectarian conflict between Sunni powers sympathetic to the rebels and Shi’ites who back Assad.
Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have publicly supported the Syrian rebels while Iran has been the staunchest regional ally of Assad, complicating any consensual approach to defusing Syria’s civil war.
Ahmadinejad said all governments should help to resolve the Syria conflict so that issues are resolved at the negotiating table, rather than in fighting.
“A national consensus is needed and it must bring unity for the future of Syria and based on the ceasefire. It is the people who should decide the future of Syria and whatever they vote for should be followed,” he said.
He added that relations between Iran and regional countries including Kuwait were “intimate and brotherly,” according to IRNA, saying that those who tried to paint Iran as a regional threat were wrong.
“It is not right because the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the regional security as its own security. Security has only been affected when foreign forces have been in the region,” he said.
(Reporting by Marcus George in Dubai; Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Jon Hemming)