Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran meet in Cairo

A regional initiative to resolve the crisis in Syria quietly commenced with the inaugural meeting of diplomats from Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran in Cairo on Monday.

The intention for talks by the regional quartet, without involvement of western powers, was announced by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy during last month’s Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the boldness of Egypt’s pronouncement — pitting together regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran — the initiative is likely to be fine-tuned.

Iran has already announced its discomfort in engaging three other countries that have been openly hostile to Damascus, Tehran’s top ally. Consequently, Iran wants two other partners — Iraq, current head of the Arab League and Venezuela, member of the troika of NAM — to join the quartet.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that Tehran “basically agreed” with the Egyptian initiative but had, nevertheless, made a “complementary proposal”. Iran would decide on Egypt’s proposal after considering the results of Monday’s meeting, said Mr. Salehi.

Iran’s representative at the conference, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, sounded upbeat on Tuesday about the future of the Egyptian initiative, which he said would take its cue from the resolutions on Syria passed during the NAM summit.

“We are at the meeting as NAM’s rotating president and we are willing to present and pursue the different ideas provided by the NAM leaders as a way out of the status quo and as a political solution,” said Mr. Abdollahian, as quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars news Agency (FNA).

Consensus

The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister also praised the Egyptian Foreign Ministry for formulating a “balanced” statement, which calls for the rapid termination of violence, protection of Syrian unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and opposes foreign meddling.

The Egyptians have also proposed a next meeting of the group at the Foreign Ministers’ level.

Ahead of Monday’s talks, Nazih el-Nagari, a deputy spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the meeting “will work to reach consensus on a number of fronts of the Syrian issue, mainly halting violence immediately, rejecting foreign military intervention and upholding Syria’s unity”.

He added that it was necessary to launch “a political process with the participation of different Syrian components to achieve Syria’s aspiration for democracy, freedom, and integrity and multi-democratic political system”.

Sections of the Arab media had earlier raised the possibility of the inclusion of France in the contact group, but FNA is reporting reported that this issue was not raised during the bilateral and multilateral meetings in Cairo.

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