Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi have discussed the Syria crisis after negotiators failed to agree on Tehran’s role in upcoming talks, the ministry has said.
Zarif and Brahimi talked by phone “about the latest on the Geneva 2 conference,” a Russian-US initiated forum scheduled for January 22 seeking to end the civil war in Syria, the foreign ministry website said on Saturday.
Zarif, it said, “insisted on a political solution” that includes talks between the parties to the conflict which has claimed some 126,000 lives since it erupted nearly three years ago.”
The announements comes a day after UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters the United States still did not agree that Iran should be involved in the peace talks, but that Tehran had not yet been “taken off the list” of participants.
“On Iran, we haven’t agreed yet. It’s no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran’s participation would be the right thing,” said Brahimi, who is tasked by the United Nations and Arab League with brokering peace talks.
Iran is Syria’s main regional ally and a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Tehran is accused of providing military and financial support to Damascus, despite repeatedly maintaining that it has no official military presence in Syria and that its backing is in the form of humanitarian aid.
Iran says it wants to attend the peace talks but insists it will not agree to preconditions, alluding to the result of a previous forum that called for a transitional government in Damascus.
The argument over Iran’s participation came as the US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began a process that could allow the Senate to vote as soon as next month to impose new sanctions on Iran if talks on its nuclear programme fail, Senate aides said on Friday.
This is despite a warning from President Barack Obama not to derail diplomatic efforts to curtail the Islamic state’s nuclear programme.