Slightly more than a week to go until the international conference on Syria in Montreux (Switzerland) that is scheduled for January 22, there is still no certainly concerning Iranian delegation’s participation in it. Thus, the United States insists that Tehran should not be invited to the forum that is intended to launch the political settlement process. This has been confirmed, in particular, by Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State. According to her, Secretary of State John Kerry had not invited Iran to attend the Geneva II conference when he was speaking at a news conference in Paris on Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the UN and League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. She stressed that the U.S. position on Iran’s possible participation in the conference had not changed. “Iran would need to publicly accept the Geneva I communiquй in order to be considered for participation at the ministerial level.” Geneva I was a meeting of the Action Group for Syria with the participation of Russia and the United States that was held on June 30, 2012. “We’ve also spoken in the last week about Iran possibly doing some things that would make the international community look more favourably on their participation in some way, but we have no indication they’re willing to do any of those things,” she said. The UN officials have other views. Thus, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes that the presence of Iranian representatives would be useful for the peace conference on Syria and is ready to extend an official invitation to Iran as soon as Russia and the United States agree on Iran’s participation in the forum. UN Secretary-General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said that Lakhdar Brahimi also supported the idea to invite Iran to the conference. “We have consistently stated that Iran’s presence at these talks will be helpful,” Nesirky said. According to him, the Islamic Republic of Iran is “a regional power, capable of influencing the Syrian conflict settlement.” “The countries - initiators (of Geneva II), in other words, the United States and Russia, have discussed the issue of the participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. If they find a formula that would make Iran’s participation possible, the invitation letter will be extended,” Nesirky said.
The long-sought international peace conference on Syria is set to begin on 22 January with a one-day meeting in the Swiss town of Montreux, the United Nations had stated previously. The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, will be held in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux, and, after a day’s break, moving on 24 January to the world body’s headquarters in Geneva. The conference will bring the Syrian government and the opposition to a negotiating table for the first time since the conflict started in March 2011.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that all influential players in the region, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, should be invited to the conference. This issue will be most likely discussed in the coming days when the Iranian and Syrian Foreign Ministers, Javad Zarif and Walid Muallem, will come to Moscow for talks with Lavrov. The visits will take place on January 16 and 17, respectively.
Among the important regional players is also Lebanon, which, according to Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, attaches major importance to Iran’s participation in the Geneva II conference, taking into account the weighty role Iran plays in the Middle East. He stressed the similarity of the positions of Beirut and Tehran on the Syrian conflict that “negatively affects the situation in the whole region.” According to Mansour, the spread of terrorism is the largest threat and it has already affected Lebanon.
On Sunday, Zarif reiterated Iran’s stance. He stated that Iran would participate in Geneva II if it “receives an invitations without any preconditions” regarding its presence. “We support any initiative, aimed at stopping the conflict in Syria and believe that a mechanism for a political settlement of the crisis should be worked out in Geneva,” said the Iranian foreign minister. “The best way that would make it possible to curb terrorism and religious fanaticism is to give the Syrians an opportunity to take a free vote at elections,” Zarif stressed.