Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moonAFP photo

Following announcements that Russia wants Iran to participate in the Geneva 2 talks between the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Syrian opposition, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced Tuesday that he also believes that Tehran should be involved in the conference. 

Maariv reported that the UN official, who is visiting Peru's capital Lima, said that until now, the exact identity of participants in the talks, which are scheduled to take place in Switzerland on January 22, remained unconfirmed. But Ban did express his belief that Iran should be involved. 

"Iran should be invited to the conference in Geneva," Ban said, reiterating his views that Iran has been innocent of involvement with the Syrian war. "I believe that Iran is one of the countries that can play a very important role."

Ban also said that he believes that the identity of the participants will become clearer towards the end of next month, after a meeting will be held between Syrian Opposition forces and a task force made up of UN diplomats, as well as representatives from Russia and the United States.

The Syrian Civil War, which has raged since 2011, has mushroomed from a regional conflict between the forces of Alawite President Bashar Assad and the country's Sunni minority, into an all out Sunni-Shi'ite Islamic holy war. The Geneva 2 talks are an attempt to resolve the issue diplomatically. 

Assad's government agreed late last month to attend the talks, despite backing out at first over allegations that some of the conference's participants were providing rebel forces with aid. 

Rebel groups are split regarding the talks, with some groups - like the Free Syrian Army - refusing to attend. Others, like the Syrian National Coalition, have been more open to negotiations. 

Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov stated that Russia supports Iran's involvement in the talks, claiming they are essential for peace in the region. 

Gatilov said that while no agreement has been reached yet among the rebel leaders regarding who will attend the conference, Russia is optimistic that a unified delegation will be reached. "We support one [rebel] delegation," he said.

The Deputy Foreign Minister added that his country wants to hold a meeting later this month of all opposition forces in Syria, with the aim to unify the rebel groups before the conference in Geneva. "Preparations are underway and will continue," he declared. 

Both Russia and Iran have been accused of being involved in the Syrian Civil War, leading some to suspect that the Geneva 2 talks will fail due to inherent political biases. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated earlier this month that Tehran supports "the withdrawal of foreign fighters" from Syria - and presumably its own fighters as well. 

Russia, like Iran, has been accused of helping the Syrian rebels perpetuate the bloody conflict, by sending them arms and weapons. 

Russia has also faced allegations of entering into an arms deal with Iran and providing the Islamic Republic with nuclear materials. Moscow continues to deny the charges.