Iran Rejects Preconditions for Syria Talks

Iran Rejects Preconditions for Syria Talks

TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday any preconditions for Tehran’s presence in the upcoming international talks on Syria crisis will be meaningless. “The role and influence of Iran as an important and effective part in the settlement of regional problems including the Syria issue are clear to all; and based on its principled stance, Iran will spare no effort to solve the crisis in Syria,” Zarif said in a meeting with visiting Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad here. “However, we once again emphasize that Iran will never accept any precondition for its presence in the Geneva II conference and in case of an official call to help resolve the crisis, we are prepared to officially and fully attend the meeting,” the Iranian minister pointed out. Zarif reaffirmed Iran’s stance on settling the crisis in Syria through political approaches and stressed the importance of continuing with bilateral and multilateral cooperation and consultation. “The ongoing events in Syria are a big and decisive test for stability and security across the region. Confronting the wave of terrorism and extremism require cooperation and convergence among all countries,” he stated. The Syrian official, for his part, said bilateral cooperation plays a significant and fateful role in establishment of regional stability, peace and security. Miqdad added that Iran must be a part of any international bid aimed at resolving Syria crisis, particularly the Geneva II conference. The United Nations sent out invitations Monday for the conference on Syria and Iran wasn’t on the list. “Iran was not among the first invitations,” a UN spokesman, Farhan Haq, said at a news conference, leaving the door open to another round before the conference begins Jan. 22. In addition to the warring parties, others invited to Geneva are the five permanent members of the Security Council and about two dozen other countries, including Saudi Arabia. The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has argued that both Saudi Arabia and Iran should be invited to the conference. He has been supported by Russia and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The U.S. position has shifted from outright rejection toward a willingness to allow Iran to participate—but only if it accepted the outcome of the first Geneva conference held in June 2012. Those talks called for a “Syrian-led transition” in Damascus. Whether Assad would be part of such a transition remains a big point of contention. Iran wants to be invited, but without conditions, said an Iranian diplomat in New York. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, “Different regional countries and influential (political) figures have emphasized Iran’s role which would be of help to settle the crisis.” Iran has said it is ready to play a “constructive” role in the upcoming conference if it is invited. “The meeting will merely turn into a political show and will not have a durable achievement if it is held for a meeting sake,” said the Iranian spokeswoman, implying that ignoring the influence of Iran in Syria might be a flaw in the results of the talks. “The Iranian government has very close relations with the Syrian government. Iran has also contacts with some opposition groups of (the Syrian government) which are and can be used for helping find resolution to the problems,” Afkham pointed out. The Geneva II peace conference, scheduled on Jan. 22, is aimed at bringing together the warring sides in Syria to hammer out a political solution that could end the longstanding crisis, which has killed over 115,000 people. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Sunday there might be ways Iran could “contribute from the sidelines” in the so-called Geneva 2 peace conference in Montreux, Switzerland, on January 22. On Monday U.S. officials said Tehran might still be able to play a helpful role. Afkham said Tehran supported a political solution to end the Syrian war, in which at least 100,000 people have been killed and millions uprooted. “But in order to take part in the Geneva 2 conference, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept any proposal which does not respect its dignity,” the spokeswoman added. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet on January 13, and voiced the hope they could agree on Iran’s participation. Among the others invited are Algeria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Haq said in an email.

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