Iran should take part in an international conference agreed by Moscow and Washington to help broker an end to the Syria conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted in an interview broadcast Thursday.
Lavrov told Lebanese television that Russia believed the conference, which he and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Moscow last week, should include Iran, a key Syria ally, while stressing that this had not been agreed.
“We must not exclude such a country as Iran from this process due to geopolitical preferences. It is after all a very important outside player. But as yet there are no agreements on this subject,” Lavrov was quoted as saying in a transcript published on the Russian foreign ministry’s website.
The interview aired Thursday on Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen channel but was filmed on Monday, according to the ministry website.
Iran, which is Russia’s main regional ally and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, “can play the same role as the other outside players, directly interacting and supporting one or other Syrian side in a political or other way,” Lavrov said.
“There are obvious things: Iran has often stressed its solidarity with the Syrian government and representatives of the Iranian leadership regularly visit Damascus,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Tuesday would not rule out the possibility that Iran could be invited to join the talks in search of a political resolution to end the conflict now in its third year.
In the interview, Lavrov also accused Western powers of wanting to hold narrow talks ahead of the planned conference that would set its agenda and possibly even its outcome without Syrian participation.
“Some of our Western colleagues (this came through also in talks with David Cameron in Sochi) have a desire to narrow the circle of outside participants and start the process with a very small group of countries,” Lavrov said, referring to British Prime Minister Cameron’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Lavrov suggested that “during these talks, practically speaking, they would decide in advance the teams for the talks, the agenda and maybe even the result of the talks.”
This would end in a “scheme dreamt up without the participation of Syrians,” he warned.
Russia is a traditional ally of Syria and as a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council has blocked several bids to ramp up pressure on Assad to step down.