TEHRAN - Iran’s new foreign minister yesterday criticised possible US-led strikes on Syria as outside the bounds of the United Nations charter, saying the use of force is illegal.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comments while visiting the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The visit underscored the growing links between the two Shiite-led neighbours and their shared opposition to military strikes in Syria.
“I do not know why those who say all options are on the table do not understand the fact that civilised countries 65 years ago ... rejected in the charter of the United Nations (the) resort to force as an illegal practice,” Zarif said, breaking away from his native Farsi during a press conference to speak in English in comments clearly directed at the United States and its allies.
Iran is the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime also maintains strong ties to Russia. Assad’s troops are battling largely Sunni rebels who receive support from Sunni countries such as Turkey and the Gulf states.
Zarif was met on arrival by his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari. He also held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the parliament speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi.
Nujaifi, Iraq’s most senior Sunni Arab politician, also expressed concern about domestic fallout from a Syria strike yesterday.
“We believe that the strike will not benefit Syria, but instead it will spark a fire that could extend to Iraq and neighbouring countries,” he said. “A strike will not bring a solution to the crisis. It will only worsen the situation more and more.”
Iraq’s prime minister last week reiterated Baghdad’s opposition to foreign involvement in the Syrian conflict, warning that a military strike could have unforeseen consequences.
Zarif echoed those fears in his comments in Baghdad, saying those “who want to start a war cannot control the course of the war or end it.”
“The US president has entered a trap set by others ... against his personal wishes. We hope that he would get out of this trap,” Zarif said, according to a translation of his comments into Arabic.