Manmohan may meet Assad's PM in Tehran

Last Updated : 26 August 2012, 19:17 IST

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Notwithstanding US frowns, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may meet Wael Nader al-Halqi, his counterpart in the President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered regime in Syria, on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran.

Keen to reach out to the new dispensation in Cairo, New Delhi has also proposed a bilateral meeting between Singh and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Tehran.
Singh is likely to leave for Tehran on Tuesday to attend the 16th NAM summit, which Iran is set to project as a diplomatic coup to rebuff the campaign by the US, its allies in West and Israel to isolate the Islamic Republic over the latter’s controversial nuclear programme. 

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that a “pull-aside meeting” between Singh and Morsi was being scheduled, despite constraint of time for both the leaders during the conclave of the 120-nation bloc. He also said that New Delhi would also explore possibilities of a short meeting between prime minister and his counterpart from Syria.

India did not toe the US line on the issue of nature international intervention in Syria in the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. The differences persisted even as US Permanent Representative to UN, Susan Rice, earlier this week had a detailed discussion on the issue with Mathai and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon during what was officially termed as “a private visit” by the top American diplomat to India.

The crisis in Syria is going to be one of the key issues to be discussed at the NAM summit in Tehran. Iran is likely to propose to set up a contact group to help diffuse the crisis in Syria.

New Delhi has been opposing ‘unilateral’ moves for externally induced regime change in Syria and advocating that the UN must remain strongly involved with the Syrian rebels as well as President Assad’s regime in Damascus in the search for a way forward.

“We would like to see a Syrian-led, inclusive process for reform and change in Syria to bring an end to the current conflict. We believe the international community’s role should be to assist that Syrian-led process and the UN has a particular role to play,” said Mathai.

India earlier this month abstained from voting on a resolution on the crisis in Syria at the UNGA. New Delhi made it clear that it did not hold any brief for any leader of Syria, but expressed its reservation over the specific reference in the resolution, which was drafted by Saudi Arabia, to the Arab League’s July 22 declaration.

Published 26 August 2012, 19:17 IST

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