Last updated: 27 September, 2013

Rouhani: Iran wants active role in Syria peace talks

Iran wants to “actively” take part in any new Syria peace conference, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Friday.

“For Geneva or any other international gathering … should Iran participate, it will actively accept that invitation and participate for the sake of the Syrian people,” Rouhani told a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Russia and the United States have been working to organize a peace conference between the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels in Geneva, to follow on from a ceasefire deal announced last year but so far never implemented.

But the so-called Geneva II conference has been repeatedly postponed amid wrangling among the Syrian opposition, and a dispute over which countries, including Syria’s key ally Iran, should participate.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were to meet Friday with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the foreign ministers from Britain, France and China for talks on Syria including the possible peace conference.

Washington has so far objected to Iran’s presence at the negotiating table, accusing it of actively supporting Assad’s regime in the brutal civil war which has claimed some 110,000 lives, by funneling weapons, cash and manpower into Syria.

A US State Department official late Thursday, after a first meeting with the new Iranian foreign minister, said Tehran first had to embrace the so-called Geneva communique adopted in June 2012.

The six-point plan called for an immediate ceasefire to pave the way for a political transition, but it has yet to be implemented. And the fighting on the ground has only worsened.

Anyone wanting to take part in the peace conference should first “sign up to the Geneva communique and Iran has not explicitly done so,” the State Department official said.

“So in the first instance, I very much hope that they will say that they support the Geneva communique, not just that they appreciate it or welcome it, but that they are for it,” the official said.