DAMASCUS, Syria – Iran’s president said Saturday that Middle Eastern countries will “disrupt” American and Israeli plans to change the political geography of the region, appearing to brush aside U.S. efforts to forge a regional peace deal between Israel and its neighbors.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the comments during a brief stop in Syria, a key ally in Tehran’s confrontation with the West, on his way to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. Ahmadinejad held talks with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad.
The meeting comes two days after Assad sat down with the Obama administration’s special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in Damascus to discuss starting separate Syria-Israel peace talks.
The back-to-back trips underscored the battle for influence in Syria between Washington and Tehran. Seeking to isolate Iran, President Barack Obama has tried unsuccessfully to pry Damascus away from its alliance.
Speaking in Damascus, Ahmadinejad appeared to dismiss U.S. efforts to forge a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and a wider deal with its neighbors. He said countries in the Middle East will “disrupt” U.S. and Israeli plans, but did not elaborate.
“Those who want to change the political geography of the region must know that they will have no place in the future of the region,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA.
The U.S. began reaching out to Syria soon after President Barack Obama took office, and has made repeated overtures to Damascus this year.
Mitchell said during his visit Thursday that the U.S. was determined to reach a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and that the administration’s efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did not contradict peace between Israel and Syria.