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UN rescinds Iran’s invite to Syria peace talks

Photo: AFP

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has withdrawn his invitation to Iran to take part in this week’s “Geneva 2” peace conference on Syria, his spokesman said on Monday.


Ban had earlier made the surprise announcement that Iran would be allowed to attend the talks, which are due to start on Wednesday in the Swiss town of Montreux.

Syria’s main umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, confirmed its attendance only after the UN withdrew its surprise last-minute invitation for Iran to attend.

However, the bloc’s main faction, the Syrian National Council (SNC), announced late Monday that it was quitting the umbrella group in protest at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's refusal to leave power. 

In a statement, the SNC mentioned its “commitment” not to enter negotiations until the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepped down – something that he refuses to do. The SNC’s move underlines the hesitation of many Syrian opposition members to attend a conference that they believe has little chance of success.

Powerful rebel groups fighting in Syria have already rejected talks with the Damascus regime on the same grounds.

Towards a ‘transitional government’ in Syria?

The United States on Monday welcomed Ban Ki-moon’s decision to rescind his invitation to Iran to attend the Geneva 2 conference, saying it hoped the move would refocus attention on the goals of the meeting.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US hopes “all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a political transition.”

The West and the Syrian opposition have long said Iran must be barred from the talks unless it first accepts an accord reached in Geneva in 2012 calling for a transitional government for Syria, which they see as a step towards unseating President Bashar al-Assad.

The UN chief abruptly withdrew his invitation to Iran after Tehran refused to back calls for a transitional government in Syria.

The negotiations aim to broker a political resolution to the conflict, which will enter its third year in March.

But diplomats and political leaders acknowledge that the prospects of achieving such a goal are slim at best, with the opposition riveted by infighting and neither side appearing desperate enough to budge from its entrenched position.


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