The Latest: Iran envoy arrives in Vienna for Syria talks

AP News
Posted: Oct 29, 2015 2:05 PM
The Latest: Iran envoy arrives in Vienna for Syria talks

VIENNA (AP) — The latest developments in talks on ending the Syrian War (all times local).

7:50 p.m.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Vienna ahead of international peace talks on resolving the Syrian conflict.

Zarif told reporters in the Austrian capital that "Iran has a stabilizing power in the region," according to the state IRNA news agency.

IRNA also quoted Zarif as saying that those trying to reach a solution to the crisis have come to the conclusion that without Iran's presence at the talks, it's "impossible to reach a logical solution" for Syria.

IRNA says Zarif held a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later Thursday, ahead of the start of the talks on Friday.


5:30 p.m.

Syrian activists and state-owned media are saying that several mortar shells have hit near the Russian Embassy in Damascus but that there are no injuries.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 10 shells struck in the vicinity of the embassy in the central Damascus neighborhood of al-Adawi. The state news agency SANA said at least eight shells fell. Both SANA and the Observatory say there is material damage but provided no details.

Thursday's attack is not the first time the embassy was targeted. On Oct.13, as government supporters gathered outside the embassy in a rally to thank Moscow for aiding the Syrian government's military campaign, shells fell inside the embassy compound. No one was reported hurt at the time.


4:10 p.m.

German officials say they are hopeful the talks on ending the war in Syria may help end the four-year war there.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday it was important to have all interested parties involved in the discussion in order to find a solution for ending the conflict.

She added that there was a hint Western leaders might be prepared to talk with Syrian President Bashar Assad because of the threat posed by the Islamic State group. But she says that Assad mustn't be allowed to remain in power in the long term.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told German daily Berliner Morgenpost in an interview published Thursday that bringing all players to the table in Vienna would offer a "glimmer of hope for a turnaround in Syria."


3:05 p.m.

Russia's foreign minister says that Syria talks in Vienna will finally bring together all key players for the first time.

Sergey Lavrov said Thursday in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Moscow stands for coordination of efforts by all those who could help fight terrorism.

Lavrov warned that "ill-considered, unilateral actions only are pushing the Middle East and North Africa toward further degradation, expanding the space of instability and anarchy in the region."

Russian news agencies said Lavrov was expected to meet in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart later Thursday.

Since Sept. 30, Russia has conducted airstrikes in Syria. It says they have been directed against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups and rejected Western criticism that the raids have targeted moderate rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's military.


2:45 p.m.

A senior Russian diplomat says he has met with some representatives of the Free Syrian Army among other Syrian opposition groups.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti as saying Thursday that he had had met in Moscow and Cairo with several people who said they represented the FSA. He wouldn't name any names.

Bogdanov added that he also had talks with various other Syrian opposition figures.

Russia has rejected Western criticism of failing to focus its airstrikes in Syria on its declared target, the Islamic State group, and targeting moderate rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's military, such as the FSA.

Bogdanov's claim follows other statements by Russian diplomats, who said Moscow has reached out to various Syrian opposition groups opposed to the IS.


2:15 p.m.

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders says there has been an escalation in deaths from airstrike attacks on hospitals in Syria in the last month — roughly the same period Russia began its air campaign in the war-torn country.

The group said in a statement Thursday that 35 Syrian patients and medical staff have died and 72 have been wounded in the attacks in northern Syria's provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and the central provinces of Hama.

These are also provinces where Russian airstrikes have largely been taking place since Sept. 30. Syrian government jets have also continued their attacks in the meantime.

The aid group, also known as MSF according to its French acronym, says 12 hospitals have been targeted in attacks, including six it supports. The attacks have caused five hospitals to shut down.


12:59 p.m.

Syria has lashed out at Saudi Arabia, saying it is not qualified to play a "productive" role in resolving the Syrian War because it is shedding the blood of Muslims and Arabs there, in Yemen and in Iraq.

The comments by Syria's information minister were aired on pro-state Syrian al-Ikhbariya TV on Thursday. They come ahead of talks in Vienna by major players in the Syrian War, including the U.S. and Russia. For the first time the talks also bring together Saudi Arabia and Iran, a bitter rival and major ally of President Bashar Assad Iran. A day before the meeting, Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir said there is no role for Assad in the political transition.

Syria's information minister, Omran al-Zoubi criticized Jubeir, calling him a "servant" who is best silent.


12:35 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says international talks in Vienna should help launch an inter-Syrian political dialogue and achieve political settlement.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at Thursday's briefing that Moscow is satisfied to see that Iran and Egypt have been invited to join the talks among other participants.

She said using the potential of all regional players is essential for the success of the talks and unilateral approaches won't work.

She voiced the hope that the talks will be frank and constructive.

Zakharova again rejected allegations that Russia's air campaign in Syria has caused civilian casualties as lies, reaffirming that the Russian warplanes only target terrorist infrastructure.


11:50 a.m.

Syria's exiled opposition is rejecting any role for President Bashar Assad in the political transition "even for one day" ahead of talks on ending the country's civil war.

In a statement Thursday, Syrian National Coalition member Bassam Abdullah warned against wasting time on political initiatives like Vienna, saying they are attempts to allow the military time to regain territories from rebels.

Abdullah's comments come as diplomats converge on Vienna for talks by key players in the Syrian civil war now entering its fifth year.

The talks are attended by the U.S., Russia, and bitter regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, the first time the two nations to discuss Syria.

Abdullah made the statement after holding meetings in Germany with the U.S. envoy to Syria Michael Ratney.


This version corrects spelling of Syrian information minister al-Zoubi.