Iran could help on sidelines of Syrian peace talks: Kerry

January 06, 2014 - 4:46:25 am

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia at the King’s desert encampment in Rawdat Al Khuraim near Riyadh, yesterday. 

JERUSALEM: The United States yesterday appeared for the first time to hold out the possibility that Iran might play a role on the sidelines of a Syria peace conference even if Tehran is not formally invited.

Washington, and Syrian opposition groups, have long had reservations about the participation of Iran, which they accuse of supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad with manpower and arms during the near three-year uprising against his rule.

Despite the improvement in US-Iranian relations this year with a landmark nuclear deal struck in November, ties are strained by many issues, including the Syrian civil war in which at least 100,000 people have been killed and millions uprooted.

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Kerry reiterated US opposition to Iran being a formal member of the so-called “Geneva 2” talks scheduled for Jan. 22 in Switzerland because it does not support a 2012 international agreement on Syria.

That so-called “Geneva 1” accord called for the Syrian government and opposition to form a transitional government “by mutual consent”, a phrase Washington says rules out any role for Assad. Russia, a sponsor of the plan, disputes that view.

Kerry, in a shift in tone, held out the possibility of Iran playing a constructive if limited role at the conference even if it does not endorse the 2012 agreement.

“Now, could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways for them, conceivably, to weigh in? Can their mission that is already in Geneva ... be there in order to help the process? It may be that there are ways that could happen,” he said.

“But that has to be determined by the (UN) secretary-general, it has to be determined by Iranian intentions themselves,” he told reporters in Jerusalem, where he trying to nudge Israel and the Palestinians toward a peace agreement. “But in terms of a formal invitation or participation - that is for those who support the Geneva 1 implementation.”Reuters

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