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Iran’s participation in Syria conference crucial for Russia -- FM

June 05, 2013, 22:04 UTC+3

The next preparatory trilateral meeting will be held in Geneva on June 25 at the same level as the just concluded one

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GENEVA, June 5 (Itar-Tass) - Iran’s participation in an international conference on Syria is vital for Russia, Russian president’s special representative for the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.

“This is a matter of principle because the composition of the conference should be balanced,” Bogdanov told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday, June 5, commenting on a trilateral meeting between Russian, U.S. and U.N. experts to prepare the conference.

“We have brought our positions closer on many issues but there are still unsolved questions,” Bogdanov said and admitted that “the Americans are negative about inviting Iran.”

“We think the fact that Iran did not participate in Geneva-1 was a mistake and it should not be repeated. Iranians and other influential external players should be invited to the conference,” the diplomat said.

“The point is that two Syrian sides should negotiate and come to agreement and they should know that they are not abandoned, that there are sympathising and supporting forces on both sides,” Bogdanov said.

The next preparatory trilateral meeting will be held in Geneva on June 25 at the same level as the just concluded one. Apart from Bogdanov, the Russian delegation also included Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov. The United Nations was represented by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman participated for the United States.

At their talks in Moscow on May 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to hold an international conference on the basis of the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, in order to try to overcome the crisis in Syria.

Lavrov and Kerry said that their countries would encourage both the Syrian government and opposition groups to look for a political solution.

“The Secretary-General strongly encourages all parties to seize this opportunity. The United Nations and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, will intensify efforts on this matter,” the U.N. Secretary-General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

After the separate telephone conversations with Kerry and Lavrov, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also talked with the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. He stressed that “the United Nations stands ready to play its role in helping to bring about a peaceful settlement.”

“The statements made in Moscow constitute a very significant first step forward. It is nevertheless only a first step,” Brahimi said, adding that this is the first “hopeful news” concerning Syria in a very long time.

Brahim has consistently called on the U.S. and Russia to exercise leadership and work together to initiate a process to implement the Geneva Declaration of June 30, 2012.

That document - issued after a meeting in the Swiss city of the Action Group for Syria - lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among other items, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.

“There is every reason to expect the three other permanent members of the Security Council as a whole and indeed all the Security Council members to work together amongst themselves and with the Secretary-General to carry the process forward,” Brahimi said.

“Naturally the Syrians themselves - all the Syrians - will occupy pride of place in the process that should be launched as early as possible. It is equally important that the entire region mobilises in the support of the process,” he added.

In addition to the tens of thousands killed, some 4.25 million people have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, with more than 1.4 million of them taking refuge in neighbouring countries.

The U.N. estimates that some 6.8 million people inside Syria are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance - nearly half of them children.

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