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Iran Not Invited to Syria Peace Talks

United Nations chief sends out invitations to the planned Geneva II peace conference, Iran not on the first list.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/7/2014, 5:44 AM

Tehran
Tehran
AFP photo

Iran will not be part of the planned Geneva II peace conference on Syria, despite President Bashar Al-Assad’s wish to have his key ally attend, Al Arabiya reported on Monday.

According to the report, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday started sending out invitations to the peace conference, but Iran was not on the first list.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on January 13 in a bid to decide on whether Iran should take part in the conference due to be held on January 22, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told Al Arabiya.

American officials in Brussels have said that Iran could participate in the talks if it helps put an end to the Syrian regime’s bombardment of Aleppo and improve humanitarian access to trapped civilians.

“There are also steps that Iran could take to show the international community that they are serious about being a positive player,” a senior State Department official told reporters travelling with Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Those include calling for an end to the bombardment by the Syrian regime of their own people, it includes calling for encouraging humanitarian access,” the official said, according to Al Arabiya.

One U.S. official said Washington still believed it was ‘less likely than likely’ that Iran would play any role at the peace conference, even on the sidelines.

Another official said Iran and the United States had not discussed the matter directly. All the officials declined to be named.

Washington has long opposed Iranian participation in the talks without it signing up to a June 2012 accord calling for a transitional government to replace the Assad regime.

Ban last month launched a fresh appeal for Iran to take part, but UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said that the United States was blocking this from happening.

"It's no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced" that "Iran's participation is the right thing to do," he said.

Kerry on Sunday opened the door to possible involvement by Tehran in the conference.

“Could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways, conceivably, to weigh in? Can their mission that is already in Geneva be there in order to help the process? It may be that there are ways that can happen,” Kerry said.

“We’re happy to have Iran be helpful,” he added.

Throughout the civil war in Syria, Iran has provided Assad with military support during his fight against the rebels.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

An Iranian parliamentarian recently boasted that his country sent “hundreds of battalions” to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s troops.