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Iran Calls for Expansion of Syria Ceasefire

Bahram Ghasemi - Iranian foreign ministry spokesman

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi has called for the expansion of a partial ceasefire in Syria to cover all the country if the existing one is successful.

The United States and Russia struck an agreement on a ceasefire in southwest Syria on July 7 after the two countries’ respective presidents, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, met for the first time at the G20 summit in Germany.

"The agreement could be fruitful if expanded to all of Syria to include the areas we discussed in Astana in order to de-escalate tensions," Qasemi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

Furthermore, Qassemi expressed doubt about the ceasefire’s chances of success in southwest Syria, blaming the United States and attacks on Bashar Assad forces.

“If the ceasefire deal could be extended all over Syria it would be beneficial, but the record of the U.S. measures in Syria raises doubts about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Qassemi called on the United States to put an end to what he called “unhelpful measures in Syria,” and noted “any initiative in the Arab country should take into account its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Nevertheless, Qassemi reiterated that it is still too early to determine the effectiveness of the U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire for Syria or to comment on any guarantee of its success.

Referring to the joint efforts by Iran, Russia, and Turkey during the Astana talks to tackle the Syrian crisis, Qassemi said, “Iran has been fully informed by the Russians on the ceasefire agreement.” However, he went on to say, “They see some ambiguities in the deal mainly related to the recent American measures in Syria.”

Given its “special relations” with Russia, Qassemi added, “Tehran is in constant consultation with Moscow via diplomatic channels and receives the necessary information on Syria.”

During the Astana peace talks, Russia, Turkey, and Iran tried to finalize an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria but failed to reach an agreement.

Iran and Russia have formed a strong alliance in recent years, with both supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government against his opposition forces.

However, Iran insists it is merely helping Syrian government by sending military advisers to the war-torn country.

Nonetheless, more than 1,000 Iranian military personnel have reportedly been killed so far in the Syrian civil war.

“Iran and Russia's role in Assad’s criminal acts cannot be ignored,” said U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley last April.

Earlier, former U.S. President Barack Obama had also held Iran and Russia responsible for killing civilians in Aleppo.

Tehran’s raising doubts about the partial ceasefire comes at a time when the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, declared that “calm prevailed” in the southwest since the truce had begun at noon on July 9 despite limited minor violations.

“There were some shootings in Deraa and Quneitra, but they did not jeopardize the ceasefire,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Director Rami Abdur-Rahman.

The partial ceasefire covers Deraa, as-Suwayda, and Quneitra, near the Syria-Jordan border.