Iran is for the moment not on the list to join in Syria peace talks scheduled for later this month. The United Nations began sending out invitations on Monday, as fighting spread between rival rebel groups in Syria.
Iran has not yet received a call-up to the talks which are designed to bring together representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel groups, who have been fighting a civil war over the country for almost the past three years.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began sending out invitations on Monday to the so-called “Geneva 2″ talks, to be held in Switzerland, but Iran was not among the “first round” of nations to be invited, according to a UN spokesman. “The secretary-general is in favor of inviting Iran,” the spokesman, Farhan Haq, said.
Invitations are subject to approval by the countries who initiated the talks, Russia and the United States, and the two nations had not yet agreed on Iran’s role. The topic will be on the agenda when US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet next week.
Controversial role in Syria war
The US opposition to Iran’s involvement stems from Tehran’s decision not to endorse an earlier peace conference, which called for a transitional government to be set up in Syria. Both Washington and Syrian opposition groups accuse Iran of being been closely allied with President Assad, supplying his government with funds, military advice and weapons.
Kerry on Sunday asked if there were ways Iran could contribute to the peace talks “from the sidelines,” while US officials on Monday said Tehran could still play a helpful role.
However, that has been rejected by Tehran, according to remarks on Iranian state television quoted by the Reuters news agency.
“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,” Marzieh Afkham, an Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
United Nations special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, supported Iran’s involvement.
Meanwhile, rival opposition groups fought each other in the city of Raqqa in eastern Syria on Monday, reflecting the increasing complexity of the war in which al Qaeda-linked groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are now battling against other rebel fighting factions.
Local fighters tried to drive out the al Qaeda-linked group which has also taken control of towns across the border in Iraq.
“The ISIL has split roughly into two groups – locals who are beginning to defect and foreign fighters who seem intent on going on fighting,” Abedelrazzaq Shlas, an opposition activist in Raqqa, told the Reuters news agency.
se/slk (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)