Iran Hosts Syria Talks, Says Ready to Sponsor Regime-Opposition Dialogueإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Iran on Thursday appealed to Syria's government and armed opposition to open peace talks as it hosted a hastily arranged international conference on the conflict in its key Arab ally.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told diplomats from Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela and other nations that Tehran was prepared to also host such a dialogue, state television reported.
Iran opposes "any foreign interference and military intervention in resolving the Syrian crisis" and supports U.N. efforts to end the bloodshed, he said.
There was no indication Iran was modifying its strong support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been locked in an escalating war with rebels since an uprising against his rule started in March 2011.
A top aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Saeed Jalili, on Tuesday told Assad in Damascus that Tehran would not permit its alliance with Assad's regime to be broken.
"Iran will never allow the resistance axis -- of which Syria is an essential pillar -- to break," said Jalili.
The Tehran conference convened diplomatic representatives, mostly ambassadors, from 29 countries, including Iran, but none from Western states or Turkey or Arab countries in the Gulf that Iran accuses of arming Syria's rebels.
Syria's government itself was not represented, nor was Syria's opposition.
The meeting took place in the diplomatic vacuum left by Kofi Annan's August 2 announcement that he was resigning as the U.N.-Arab League envoy on the crisis because of lack of U.N. Security Council support.
The United States and Russia, in particular, differ on how to tackle the Syrian conflict, stalling any U.N. action. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed three attempts within the Council to sanction Assad's regime, earning U.S. opprobrium.
A frustrated Annan said the "continuous finger-pointing and name-calling" in the Council undermined his mission.
Iran announced the Tehran conference on Monday and said it was inviting only governments with a "realistic position" on Syria, implying those that shared its stance, mirroring that of Russia.
A senior foreign ministry official had said the meeting would be at foreign ministers level, but only three foreign officials of that rank turned up, from Iraq, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Ambassadors filled most of the table.
According to Salehi, those represented were: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Benin, Belarus, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Tehran was attempting to revive parts of Annan's plan, notably: implementing a ceasefire, sending humanitarian aid and laying the groundwork for national dialogue, he said.
Iran has already sent humanitarian aid, the foreign minister said, to make up for international sanctions on Damascus that were "not in the interests of the Syrian people but have added to their suffering."