Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Tuesday that the West should involve Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia in order to combat the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group, in some of the most conciliatory comments towards President Assad by a Western official.
“We need a pragmatic common approach in this respect including the involvement of Assad in the fight against ISIL terror,” Kurz told reporters during a state visit to Tehran.
Most Western countries insist Syria’s president must leave power if peace is to be restored, while Iran and Russia say he is part of the solution.
“In my opinion the priority is the fight against terror. This will not be possible without powers such as Russia and Iran,” Kurz said, echoing earlier comments by Iran’s President Sheikh Hassan Rouhani.
Some European Union officials have been privately saying for months that it is time for more communication with Damascus to combat ISIL, but few senior Western officials have said so publicly.
“One should not forget the crimes that Assad has committed, but also not forget the pragmatic view of the fact that in this fight we are on the same side,” he said.
Kurz is accompanying the Austrian President Heinz Fischer in his first official visit to Iran.
Leading a 250-member delegation in Tehran’s visit including representatives from a broad spectrum of sectors, Fischer said that in recent months and after the successful Iran-G5+1 nuclear agreement, relations between Vienna and Tehran have been improving satisfactorily.