Davutoglu hopes Rohani will change Iranian stance on Syria

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who made an official visit to Tehran on Sunday to attend the inauguration of new Iranian President Hassan Rohani, has stated that he hopes there will be a change in Tehran's Syria policy under the new administration amid remarks by Iran's new president, who vowed support for the Syrian regime Today`s Zaman reported.

Davutoglu's remarks came amid Rohani's pledge on Sunday to support Syria's embattled leader Bashar al-Assad's regime, saying no force in the world would be able to shake the decades-old alliance between the two states.

Moderate cleric Rohani, who won Iran's presidential election in mid-June, scoring a surprising landslide victory over conservative hard-liners without the need for a second round runoff, met with Davutoglu for the first time at a gathering closed to the press on Monday.

Speaking to journalists on his plane en route to Tehran, Davutoglu maintained that Turkish-Iranian ties were the region's most deep-rooted. "Despite differences of opinion during the [former President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad era, the two states managed to develop relations in specific areas. We are ready for an open and sincere dialogue with Iran in the Rohani era even though both states again have a difference of opinion over regional issues, particularly Syria. There is a need for a new perspective. We believe that with Rohani there is an opportunity for a new dialogue," said Davutoglu.

Turkey and Iran have improved their ties in recent years, but their conflicting policies on Syria have strained relations since last year. Turkey is one of the staunchest supporters of the opposition forces that are trying to topple Assad, while Iran has stood by its ally Syria, one of Tehran's last Shiite allies in the region, despite growing international pressure on Assad. Iran was recently criticized in the UN Security Council for its continuous backing of the Syrian regime.

Rohani on Sunday stated that Syria has been Tehran's strongest ally in the Arab world since Iran's 1979 revolution.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to strengthen its relations with Syria and will stand by it in facing all challenges," the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted Rohani as saying in a report from Tehran, according to The Associated Press. "The deep, strategic and historic relations between the people of Syria and Iran ... will not be shaken by any force in the world."

Rohani, speaking during a meeting in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Sunday with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, also condemned foreign intervention in Syria, saying that the Arab country is passing through a "failed attempt" to strike at the "axis of resistance and rejection to Zionist-American plans in the region."

Damascus and Tehran reject the idea that there is an uprising in Syria and say the country is being subjected to an Israeli-American conspiracy because of its support to militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah. SANA quoted Rohani as saying that Syria will come out of this war "victorious."

The Turkish foreign minister noted that everyone saw a need for a new foreign policy line in the Rohani era. Rohani, who was the former chief nuclear negotiator, is known for his nuanced, conciliatory and reformist approach.

"There are expectations from Rohani in three areas. The first expectation is to take steps on the improvement of the economic situation, which is the expectation of the Iranian people. The second is the international community's expectations for a solution to the nuclear issue. The third expectation is on regional issues, which is to revise the Iranian stance on Syria," said Davutoglu.

When asked by journalists whether there was a possibility of a change in the Iranian stance on Syria, Davutoglu replied that Turkey wishes for a change in Tehran's stance.

However, he added that taking into consideration the involvement of Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, a strong ally of Tehran and the Syrian regime, in the Syrian crisis in recent months, Iran, rather than adopting a diplomatic position, has openly taken sides in the crisis.

The revolt in Syria has dragged on far longer than any other Arab Spring uprising, in part because of Assad's unwillingness to meet the demands of the Syrian people but also because of the strong support of some countries, including Iran.

Iran has consistently denied that it has forces in Syria supporting Assad. Friends of Syria nations, including Turkey, have recently called for an immediate withdrawal of fighters belonging to Hezbollah and Iran from Syria.

"This situation concerns all of us in terms of Iran's regional image and its contributions to the region. Today, there is need for peace and stability in the region. In order to maintain this peace and stability, Iran's attitude is an important factor. We hope this factor will be correctly assessed," said Davutoglu.

Davutoglu also added that a revision by Rohani of Iran's policy towards Syria after two years would contribute to peace in the region, adding, however, that if Tehran continues the same policies, this would lead to a disappointment over Rohani's leadership in the region.

"We would not want to see such a disappointment," said Davutoglu, adding that Rohani is positively perceived by the international community and that he has enough weight to start a new era.

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