Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.N. Offers Iran Role in Syria Peace Talks Global Conference Ahead of Key Huddle This Week Would Include Tehran

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.N. Offers Iran Role in Syria Peace Talks Global Conference Ahead of Key Huddle This Week Would Include Tehran

Article excerpt

BEIRUT -- The United Nations on Sunday invited Iran to attend an international meeting of foreign ministers in the Swiss city of Montreux ahead of the first direct peace talks between the warring Syrian sides in the nearly three-year conflict.

But it was not clear how Syria's main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, would react to the invitation to Iran. The Coalition, under huge pressure from its Western and Arab supporters, had agreed late Saturday to attend the Geneva peace talks.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York City that he had issued the invitation to Iran after lengthy talks in recent days with Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif.

Mr. Ban said Mr. Zarif had assured him that Iran "understands that the basis of the talks" is the full implementation of the road map adopted by the U.S., Russia and other major powers in Geneva in June 2012. That plan called for the creation of a transitional Syrian government with full executive powers.

The U.S. State Department said it viewed Mr. Ban's invitation to Iran "as conditioned on Iran's explicit and public support for the full implementation of the [June 2012] Geneva communique including the establishment of a transitional governing body."

"If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communique, the invitation must be rescinded," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The Montreux meeting precedes peace talks scheduled to begin Friday between Syrian President Bashar Assad's delegation and Syrian opposition groups at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva. The meeting will be moderated by the U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Invitations to the one-day meeting of foreign ministers at a Montreux hotel had been subject to approval by the initiating states, Russia and the United States, but the two countries had been at an impasse over whether Iran, Assad's strongest ally, should attend. …

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