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Iran urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Syria



Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called for an “immediate and lasting humanitarian ceasefire” in Syria in a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart. 

The conversation on Thursday was the second between Zarif and Sergei Lavrov over the past 48 hours, coming in the wake of a fresh international push to end the conflict.

Officials said on Wednesday US Secretary of State John Kerry would meet Lavrov in Switzerland on Saturday to discuss Syria. The meeting was expected to include foreign ministers from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Zarif earlier held phone talks with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, stressing Iran’s “principled position on the all-out fight against terrorism and terrorist groups” and finding “an inclusive political solution” to the Syria conflict.

Meanwhile, Lavrov contacted his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault to discuss the plan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow, Oct. 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

A US-Russian brokered ceasefire for Syria expired on September 19 after being in place for only a week.

Damascus refused to extend it after US airstrikes killed 83 Syrian soldiers at a military base in Dayr al-Zawr in violation of the truce.

Russia later criticized the US for not doing enough to rein in militants, saying continued violations of the ceasefire made it “senseless” for Syria to stick to the agreement.

The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, according to a UN estimate.

On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he hopes Russia could persuade Turkey into changing its stance on his country following recent rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Assad referred to the issue as his country’s only hope.

Ankara and Moscow put an end to seven months of strained relations in June when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized over Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 in Syria.

Turkey is supporting militants fighting to topple President Assad and is accused of supporting Takfiri terrorists and buying smuggled oil from them.

Turkish troops are currently deployed into northern Syria following a military incursion with the help of the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Assad further said there is strong proof that Israel is supporting Takfiri groups inside Syria, and has close relations with them.

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