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Iranian government threatens to undermine Syria peace talks because it was not invited to Geneva

Abbas Araqchi: “Everyone knows that, without Iran, the chances of reaching an actual solution in Syria are not very big.”

The Iranian government received on Sunday an unexpected invitation from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to attend the Geneva II talks on Syria, which are due to start on Wednesday. Both the Syrian opposition and western powers had been opposed to Iran’s participation unless Tehran signed up to the final statement of the previous Geneva conference in 2012. Iran had been refusing to do so.

The sudden UN move appears to have been the result of pressure and misleading statements from Tehran. Ban Ki-moon said Iran’s foreign minister had told him Tehran accepted the 2012 statement, which includes a clause concerning the formation of a transitional government in Syria. But Tehran claimed it had not agreed to anything. On the same day, the Iranian government announced that it had “voluntarily” started the suspension of 20% uranium enrichment at the Fordow and Natanz nuclear sites.

On Monday, the Syrian National Coalition, an umbrella opposition group, threatened to pull out of the conference unless the UN withdrew its invitation to Iran. In a strongly worded statement, the Coalition said that Iran, which it described as “the Syrian regime’s partner in killing the Syrian people”, cannot be a partner in the political settlement and the Geneva II conference unless it promised to withdraw all its militias and forces from Syria, endorsed all the decisions made at Geneva I, and actively contributed to implementing the decisions to be made at Geneva II.

In less the than 24 hours after issuing the invitation to Iran, the UN decided to withdraw it in order to save the conference. The Iranian government, however, seems to have other calculations.

The Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in a TV interview: “Everyone knows that, without Iran, the chances of reaching an actual solution in Syria are not very big.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his “regret” at the decision to withdraw the invitation and claimed it was taken “under pressure.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the decision as a “mistake” but “not a disaster.”

Araqchi’s words should be read as a determination by the Iranian government to undermine any meaningful political settlement in Syria that does not, first and foremost, serve Iran’s own political agenda in the region, regardless of the cost. So expect more bloodshed in Syria, thanks to a regime so hungry for regional and international power.

Sources: Agencies, Syrian National Coalition

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