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Expert: invitation to Iran to attend Geneva II result of Zarif’s visits to capitals

January 20, 2014, 21:56 UTC+3 TEHRAN
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TEHRAN, January 20, 21:05 /ITAR-TASS/. The invitation to Iran to attend the Geneva II international conference on Syria in Switzerland this week is the result of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visits to the countries of the region and to Russia, Amir Mousavi, Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies and International Relations, said on Monday, January 20.

“Zarif presented Iran’s well considered and unique position on the settlement of the Syrian crisis,” the Mehr news agency quoted him as saying. “The minister stated Iran’s official position on the resolution of the crisis in Syria, which calls for diplomatic decisions and truce between the parties to the conflict.”

“As a strong regional country, Iran plays a key role in the restoration of peace and calm in Syria,” Mousavi said.

On January 3, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the conference would fail and would produce no result without Iran’s attendance, and noted that the United States was opposing the idea of inviting Iran.

Earlier on Monday, January 20, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Iran to attend Geneva II.

“I have decided to issue some additional invitations to the one-day gathering in Montreux. They are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Iran,” Ban told reporters here at a press conference.

“I believe the expanded international presence on that day will be an important and useful show of solidarity in advance of the hard work that the Syrian government and opposition delegations will begin two days later in Geneva,” he said.

“I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis,” Ban said at the press conference.

The U.N. secretary general noted that he made the invitation after he had spoken “at length in recent days with Iran’s Foreign Minister,” Mehr said.

“"Therefore, as convener and host of the conference, I have decided to issue an invitation to Iran to participate,” Ban concluded.

Ban and the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Lakhdar 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 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.

Some thirty countries are listed as external participants of Geneva II.

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