Iran submitted last month a peace plan to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to try and end his country’s four-year war, a senior Iranian official said on Thursday.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian however told a news conference in Damascus that any initiative to end the conflict would have to recognize “the pivotal role of Assad.”
The peace plan was submitted to Assad by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a visit to Damascus on August 12, he said.
Assad “welcomed it as a constructive political initiative from Iran, and the two sides agree to follow up on these preliminary ideas via the two foreign ministers,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Moqdad, he said Iran was optimistic about the “success” of the peace plan.
Amir-Abdollahian, whose country is a key ally of Assad’s embattled regime, gave no further details.
But he stressed that for any peace initiative to bear fruit, Assad must be part of the solution.
“Any successful plan to find a solution to the Syrian crisis must take into consideration the central role of the Syrian people in deciding their future and fate, and the role of the government and of Assad are essential and pivotal in the potential solution,” he said.
Assad’s departure is the top demand of Syria’s opposition in exile, the National Coalition, which has insisted that the president should have no role in a future Syria.
The Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television channel said Iran’s initiative includes a call for “an immediate ceasefire”, the formation of a “unity government” and “constitutional amendments”.
According to Al-Mayadeen, Tehran’s initiative also stipulates that elections must be held in Syria and monitored by international observers.
The UN Security Council adopted last month a new push for peace in Syria, which Iran welcomed and which Russia, another key ally of the Syrian regime, has endorsed.
That peace push proposed by the UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura is expected to be implemented later this month.
Amir-Abdollahian said he would brief de Mistura, whom he met in Beirut on Wednesday, on the Iranian plan.
More than 240,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, which began with anti-government protests in March 2011 but spiralled into a complex civil war after a government crackdown.