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India wants to be at Geneva II, says Syrian envoy

We have indicated our interest in participation and others including Syria have supported it, said a Ministry of External Affairs official.

Kabir Taneja  New Delhi | 23rd Nov 2013

yrian President Bashar Al-Assad's political advisor, Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, after her consultations with Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has given further backing to Russia's invitation for India to participate in the now long-delayed Geneva-II talks. The envoy also said that India "wants to" be at the negotiations. Stopping in New Delhi on her way back from Moscow, Dr Shaaban said she was in the capital to appraise India on her talks with Russia and reiterate the Assad regime's stance that they are ready to go into the Geneva-II negotiations in order to find a political solution to the Syrian crises.

India, along with others such as Russia and even China, has called for a solution via dialogue to the three year old civil war which has left thousands dead and millions displaced. New Delhi has also maintained that military intervention in the country should be avoided.

"We appreciate India's role, and it is an important country for the political process on Syria" said Dr Shaaban. "India also plays a very important part in the BRICS group of countries and we want BRICS to play a larger role on a global scale. We want to see a multi-polar world and not a uni-polar world and this is why the BRICS is an important group. The uni-polar system needs to end."

However, South Block is still playing its cards on the crises cautiously. Upon inquiring about Dr Shaaban saying that India "wants to" be at the negotiations, the Foreign Ministry has said it is still waiting for further clarity on the process, which was to be held this month but has taken a back seat due to the ongoing West-Iran negotiations on the latter's alleged nuclear weapons program. Iran is also Syria's biggest ally in the region.

"We have indicated our interest in participation and others including Syria have supported it. However, a decision has to be taken by the UN and the principal parties on who will participate. Let us await that decision," said an official of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.

Dr Shaaban also took the opportunity to highlight countries such as France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel for causing continuous delays in the peace process, and also highlighted the fact that the West's support to a highly fragmented and fractured opposition, many of whom are members of the Syrian National Coalition but have denounced the offer of the Geneva talks, makes it difficult to deal with the situation.

"The Arab-Israeli conflict is the compass of every issue in the region," explained Dr Shabaan.

"Syria wants peace and security. The Syrian people can feed themselves; this is not about humanitarian aid, but about ending terrorism. This is why economic and political sanctions against Syria must be lifted. While working towards a political solution we also ask for the world's help to destroy terrorism. Other countries need to be on the right side of history."

Other Syrian sources close to these developments also mention that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has informed Washington that elections in Syria should not be considered as a solution since the chances of Assad coming back to power are "very high". Damascus, meanwhile, has said that people of Syria should decide their own destiny "via the ballot box."

Sources have also said that the European Union has sent in many clandestine delegations to Damascus in order to reach a deal on the Geneva-II talks; however the outcome of these meetings can be seen in the indecisiveness on when the talks should be held.

"We have been ready for the negotiations since July," said Dr Shaaban. "Since then tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced. The internal position within Syria and its people is that Geneva-II negotiations should happen."

India has previously stated that it is also looking to secure its own interests and investments in the region including investments in Syria, which includes over $100 million in credit lines. India also had investments in the country's oil and gas fields which had to be abandoned after rebels ran over that part of the country.

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