U.K.'s Cameron to Meet Iran's Rouhani to Discuss Syria

Iran Britain Middle East Syria
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron meets with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani during the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 24, 2014. Reuters/Timothy A. Clary

British Prime Minister David Cameron is to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian civil war as part of the annual United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders.

The meeting will be the second between the pair after they met in New York last year ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. Iran is a key ally and backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Iran reportedly sent thousands of troops to support the depleted Syrian army earlier this year.

"We have to talk to all of the countries that are involved" in the Syrian conflict, Cameron told reporters on Sunday, in quotes carried by Bloomberg.

"It's good I've got my second meeting with Rouhani. I met him last year, the first prime minister to do so for 35 years, and following the important nuclear deal it's time to have longer conversations about the future of the region and the future of Syria."

The talks come at a time when relations between Tehran and London have thawed with the signing of the landmark nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and major world powers in July and the subsequent reopening of the British embassy in the Iranian capital in August.

The diplomatic mission was shut down after a nationalist mob attacked the building four years ago to protest sanctions placed on the Iranian regime because of its nuclear program.

On Sunday, Rouhani said that Assad's regime "can't be weakened" by the international community if they wish to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) group, in an address to journalists on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. "If the priority is not to defeat terrorism, we are making a big mistake," Rouhani said.

Cameron, in talks with fellow world leaders at the U.N. this week, is expected to admit that Assad should play a role in a transitional government in Syria to solve the crisis in the country, despite previously saying that the Syrian leader should not continue in any capacity.

However, he maintained that Assad did not have a long-term future as Syrian president as he had "butchered his own people" and his actions had made him "one of the great recruiting sergeants" for ISIS, the BBC reported.

"He can't play a part in the future of Syria and that position hasn't changed," Cameron told reporters on Sunday.

"Obviously conversations about how we bring about transition are very important and that's what we need to see greater emphasis on."

Elsewhere, Iraq also announced on Saturday that it had reached a deal with Russia, Iran and Syria to share intelligence in the campaign to defeat ISIS. Russia has been building-up its military assets in Syria to aid the Syrian army after it suffered a number of key losses in recent months and to increase its influence in the anti-ISIS campaign.