The United States and Iran appear likely to come together in an effort, sponsored by the UN, to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Syria, The Cable reported Saturday. It will be the most visible signal sent by the Obama Administration of its willingness to change radically the tone and manner of its relations with the Islamic Republic.
UN chief relief coordinator Valerie Amos has sent out invitations to the U.S., Russia, Iran, Australia, Britain, China, France, Luxembourg, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the European Union, to a high level meeting in Geneva that would figure out ways of getting the various fighting armies in Syria to allow relief workers access to millions of Syrian civilians cut off from aid.
A confidential report prepared by the UN relief agency says “the humanitarian situation in Syria is deteriorating on a daily basis. The objective of the high level humanitarian group is to foster and maximize cooperation among those countries with influence over parties to the Syrian conflict to address humanitarian challenges.”
U.S. and Iranian diplomats responded favorably to the request, according to diplomats. At the same time, according to one official, Saudi Arabia, which has been clashing with the United States over its approach to Syria and Iran, would join the group. The Saudis find themselves in a lonely corner these days, together with Israel, on anything having to do with the West convincing itself it is engaged in a rapprochement with the Ayatollahs.
A senior advisor to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Seyyed Mohsen Hakim said on Saturday that improvement of relations between Iran and US would help resolve current disputes in the Middle East region. Speaking to IRNA, he said Iran is now regarded as a powerful country in the region and its cooperation with the US would be effective in resolving regional disputes.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Cable: “We’ve received an invitation and hope to be in a position to confirm attendance in the near future.”
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, told the Cable: “We welcome any efforts to help Syrian people” in “parallel to political steps.”
Miryousefi added that chief relief coordinator Amos “had discussed some humanitarian ideas on Syria during her visit to Tehran with Iranian officials. The Iranian authorities welcomed the United Nations initiatives in order to help those in need [of] help.”
Only months ago, the U.S. refused to participate with Iran in political negotiations over Syria, calling Iran a party to the conflict.
Washington’s new, softer position comes after a series of high level meetings with top Iranian officials after the election of president Hassan Rouhani, and the latter’s famous phone conversation with President Obama in September.
The United Nations is currently providing assistance to more than 9.5 million civilians in Syria. But more than 2.5 million civilians in rebel controlled areas have received little or no aid from relief agencies.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that the West should make an effort to gain the confidence of the Iranian nation.