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UNITED NATIONS, December 23, 23:01 /ITAR-TASS/. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was hopeful that the question of Iran’s participation in the international conference on Syria known as Geneva II would be resolved soon.
“I hope the question of Iran’s participation is resolved soon. As I have said before, Iran needs to contribute to peace in Syria along with others in the region,” Ban said at a press conference on Monday, December 23.
Ban said he and the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, supported Iran’s participation in the conference as it would have a positive effect on the forum’s outcome, but admitted that there were disagreements on this issue among key members of the U.N. Security Council.
The Secretary-General said he would send out invitations to the conference before the end of this month.
Ban had a telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier this week to discuss the resolution of the conflict in Syria.
“They discussed the Syria crisis and the Secretary-General’s hope that Iran can help achieve a political solution to Syria’s trauma,” the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.
Iran’s participation in the international conference on Syria known as Geneva II remains a key question.
Ban and Brahimi have repeatedly said that Iran can play a crucial role in the resolution of the Syrian conflict that has been raging since March 2011.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Iran could have positive influence on the situation in Syria.
“We are worried about the situation in Syria and around it,” the minister said. “We call for an end to the bloodshed and believe that Syrians themselves should agree on the future of their country without external interference.”
He believes, however, that external players can help the peace process in Syria. “Iran should be included in this circle. I believe it would be fundamentally important to invite Iran to Geneva II [conference on Syria],” Lavrov said.
“For the Geneva conference to be a success, it should be attended by all those who can influence the situation and who already influence it. It is important to bring all of them together in order to create a team of like-minded people so that the influence on the developments in Syria that has been exerted by many people and many countries were used to stop the bloodshed,” the minister said.
“Naturally, Iran is among those who can have positive influence on the developments in Syria... only Syrians themselves can determine the fate of their country, while external players should motivate them to do so, not try to impose some unviable schemes, not to interfere in the Syrian’s dialogue but to encourage them to continue the talks until they come to agreement,” Lavrov said.
“In my contacts with Western colleagues, with colleagues from Middle East and North African countries I begin to feel their growing understanding of how important it is to invite all key players, including Iran [to Geneva II]. This position has been supported by Lakhdar Brahimi and Ban Ki-moon,” Lavrov said.
“I do hope that those to be invited to Geneva II, and this is to be done before the end of the year, will by all means include the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the minister said.
He believes that the conference should be attended by Iran and Saudi Arabia as two countries that are associated with the main sponsors of different warring factions in Syria.
In his opinion, the presence of these countries at the conference is important because Iran is perceived as the leader of Shi’ism in Islam, and Saudi Arabia as the leader of Sunnis. “It is fundamentally important to have all branches of Islam represented because the Syrian crisis, just like many other crises in the Middle East, has a clearly pronounced Islamic dimension,” the minister said.
The goal of Geneva II would be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communique, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on June 30, 2012.The communique lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among others, 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.
More than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since March 2011 when opposition protesters first sought the ouster of the Assad government, and a further 8 million people have been displaced, the U.N. said.
Thirty countries are listed as external participants of Geneva II. It is not clear yet whether or not Iran will be invited, but this question will be decided on December 20. Russia insists Iranian officials should participate in Geneva II, but the United States objects.
Brahimi said in late November that there was still no clarity about the participation of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the conference to be held on January 22, 2014.
The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, will now be held in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux, and, after a day’s break, moving on January 24 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.
The talks would not be open-ended, and a time frame would be set once the negotiations started, Khawla Mattar, spokeswoman for Brahimi, who is organising the conference, said.
Further details are expected to be discussed on Friday in a trilateral meeting between Brahimi and officials from the United States and Russia.
The trilateral group, due to meet at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, would then be joined by permanent representatives of other permanent members of the Security Council - China, France and the United Kingdom - as well as of the League of Arab States, European Union and Syria’s immediate neighbours - Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
In addition to logistics, the meeting will discuss items such as the list of countries to be invited, and the compositions of the Syrian government and opposition delegations.
“The JSR [joint special representative] would like to know the names of participants as soon as possible, by the end of the year the latest, so that he could commence preliminary consultations with them,” Mattar said referring to Brahimi.