Iran has offered to host talks between Syria's government and opposition in Tehran, its foreign minister said Sunday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to sit down with the Syrian opposition and invite them to Iran," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA). "We are ready to facilitate and provide the conditions for talks between the opposition and the government."
The statement appears to signal a shift in the regime’s approach to the Syrian crisis, as Tehran has repeatedly accused Western and regional powers of meddling in Syria’s internal affairs.
Salehi emphasized that Iran supports the six-point plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, which calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
While the peace plan has failed to bring about a halt to the bloodshed, the former U.N. security general has claimed that he needed the threat of consequences to garner more cooperation inside Syria.
Salehi said that Annan "has treated the issue without bias and objectively and this has caused some regional countries to express concern, which is unfortunate," Press TV reported.
Britain last week introduced a new U.N. Security Council resolution threatening "immediate measures" if the Syrian government fails to comply with Kofi Annan's peace plan.
Russia and China, which are permanent U.N. Security Council members, oppose putting such pressure on the regime. Russia has proposed its own draft urging all parties to cease violence and calling for an extension of the U.N. observer mission in Syria for three months.
Ramin Mehman-Parast, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, said Saturday that Iran was ready to help resolve the crisis through dialogue, Fars News Agency (FNA) reported.
Samir Nashir, an executive board member of the exile Syrian National Council, rejected the Iranian offer saying, "We will not participate in any meetings or talks with the regime as long as Assad is in power. Assad does not need talks; he needs to go to the International Criminal Court for the massacres he's committed.”
"We will not speak to any mediators whether they are Iranian, Syrian or Russian," he added.
The United States and other nations oppose Iranian participation in the diplomacy.
"Iran is definitely part of the problem in Syria," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said. "It is supporting, aiding and abetting the Assad regime materially and in many other ways, and it has shown no readiness to contribute constructively."