Last updated: 10 December, 2013

Lavrov due in Iran for nuclear talks and discussions on Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due in Tehran Tuesday evening for talks that officials said would focus on bilateral ties, a landmark nuclear deal and plans for a Syria peace conference.

The two-day visit comes after Iran agreed in Geneva on November 24 to freeze or curb some of its controversial nuclear activities in return for limited relief from crippling international sanctions.

Lavrov will hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in meetings scheduled Wednesday, according to Iran’s foreign ministry.

Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters Tuesday that the visit was in line with the close cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, and that it would include “bilateral, regional and international issues”.

A Russian official last week said Lavrov would discuss “bilateral relations, regional problems and regulating the questions over (Iran’s) nuclear programme in the context of the agreements reached recently in Geneva.”

Afkham meanwhile added that the crisis in Syria — which is closely allied with both Tehran and Moscow — would also be discussed during Lavrov’s visit.

“During this trip, there will be discussions on Syria, in particular the Geneva peace conference,” she said, referring to a Russian-US initiated forum seeking to end the civil war in Syria which has claimed some 126,000 lives since the conflict erupted nearly three years ago.

“Both countries believe in diplomacy and opposition to the use of force in Syria,” Afkham added.

The Syrian regime and the opposition have stated their willingness to attend peace talks slated for Geneva on January 22, but they differ on how the transition of power should be managed and on the attendance at the talks of officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia, which backs the rebels.

Rouhani said last week the forum should lay the groundwork for “absolutely free” elections.

“The ground should be prepared for holding an absolutely free election with no preconditions,” he said, while calling for the “complete expulsion of the terrorists from Syria” — a reference to the rebels trying to oust Assad.