Exclusive: UK Brings US, Regional Fears to Negotiations with Iran


European countries will negotiate with Iran elements of concern that led US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, UK’s Middle East and North Africa Secretary of State Alistair Burt told Asharq Al-Awsat.

In a Friday interview, Burt revealed conclusively that Iran’s ballistic missile program and the destabilizing role it plays in the region will be among the main topics of discussion.

The situation has changed, he said. There are many questions for Iran to answer concerning its obligations towards the agreement, saying that worries which have prompted a US withdrawal are very important.

Iran should not claim being committed to the deal but not meet listed conditions, whether it is related to ballistic missiles or the regional role of the region, affirmed Burt.

Iran must be ready to discuss issues of concern to others, he added.

Britain, conscious and open-minded about Iran’s activities in the region, is ready to investigate rising fears for the security of countries in the region.

Burt said that chances of escalation are out in the open, and reiterated the UK’s call for all parties to exercise restraint.

Actions that can entail grave ramifications must be avoided, and efforts must be channeled into doing everything possible to seek other solutions to the issues at hand.

London is on track with working around the current volatile situation, Burt noted.

He revealed that the UK has been contacting parties in the Middle East, but refused to go into details.

London positioned itself in the lane of backing restraint to defuse the current tension, stating over and over again that the region needs it now more than ever before.

Despite calling for self-control, Burt did not roll back on the right each side has to defend its national interests, and for Israel to defend its territory. However, he argued that all parties must realize how fragile the situation is and do everything within their ability to limit tensions.

Responding to speculations around Iranian proxies and forces retaliating against an Israeli airstrike which attacked Iran-linked outposts in Syria, Burt said all parties must make a political decision on the matter and realize that military action is not the only choice.

Explaining how the anti-Iran raids in Syria do not come as a surprise, Burt said that the Israeli Defense Forces were defending their territory.

Since first spotting anti-Israel menacing activities taking place in Syria, Israelis were clear on pursuing military action to deter such national security threats.

More on Syria, the British minister highlighted the importance of being positively involved in the political Process and negotiations–especially with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces headed by Naser al-Hariri.

London advised the Trump administration to remain “engaged and active” militarily and politically in Syria, pointing out that American response and intervention were positive, Burt added.

However, Burt slammed the thought of things in Syria returning to the way they were seven years ago as unrealistic. He evoked irreversible events which happened over the course of the Syrian civil war.

Advocating political transition to resolve withstanding conflict, Burt shed light on Syrian regime head Bashar Al Assad’s atrocities against the Syrian people. In its aftermath, the Syrian civil war witnessed untold violence and crimes which included genocide, chemical attack, lockdown of civilian areas, and coerced displacement.

The international community has repeatedly condemned Assad for waging a war against the people of his country.

Above all, Burt championed political transition to be a stepping stone towards enabling Syrians to return to their country, launch reform and help foster a stable future.

The current status of the Syrian regime will not stand for long and Britain believes in that, he said.

Many questions arise when contemplating a solution for the Syrian war, argued Burt.

Realities such as millions of Syrians now residing abroad invoke serious challenges, including convincing them that returning home is safe.

Areas still out of regime control face an unclear future, he added on obstructing disputes holding back a peace solution.

London is looking at a political transition to free Syria from conflict and a leader which has exercised brutality against his people, said Burt.

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