News / Middle East

Iran Rejects US Suggestion of Syrian Peace Talks Role

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, Jan. 5, 2014, suggested Iran could contribute to Syria peace talks "from the sidelines."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, Jan. 5, 2014, suggested Iran could contribute to Syria peace talks "from the sidelines."
Reuters
Iran on Monday appeared to rule out participation in Syrian peace talks later this month, dismissing a U.S. suggestion that it could be involved “from the sidelines” as not respecting its dignity.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Sunday there might be ways Iran could “contribute from the sidelines” in a so-called Geneva 2 peace conference in Switzerland on Jan. 22, and on Monday U.S. officials said Tehran might still be able to play a helpful role.

Despite the improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations with a landmark nuclear deal struck in November, ties are strained by many issues, including the Syrian civil war.

Kerry reiterated U.S. opposition to Iran being a formal member of the peace talks because it does not support a 2012 international agreement on Syria.

That “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 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia, a sponsor of the plan, disputes that view.

On Monday, U.S. officials said Iran could improve its chances of playing a role on the sidelines of the Syria peace talks by working with Damascus to stop the bombardment of civilians and improve humanitarian access.

“There are ... steps that Iran could take to show the international community that they are serious about playing a positive role,” one of the officials said in Brussels.

“Those include calling for an end to the bombardment by the Syrian regime of their own people. It includes calling for and encouraging humanitarian access.” Another official made clear that the comment on bombardment referred to Syria's biggest city, Aleppo.

Civil war

The officials, who declined to be named, said Washington still believed it was “less likely than likely” that Iran would play any role at the Jan. 22 conference on Lake Geneva, even on the sidelines, and Iran and the United States had not discussed the matter directly.

In remarks quoted by state television, the Iranian foreign ministry's spokeswoman said Tehran supported a political solution to end the Syrian civil war in which at least 100,000 people have been killed and millions uprooted.

“But in order to take part in the Geneva 2 conference, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept any proposal which does not respect its dignity,” the spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, was quoted as saying.

Syrian opposition groups and Washington, which accuse Tehran of supporting Assad with manpower and arms during the uprising against him, have long had reservations about the participation of Iran, although the United Nations special envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has backed Tehran's involvement.

Rebel groups

In Syria, rival Islamist rebel groups fought in the city of Raqqa on Monday, residents said, as local fighters tried to drive out a foreign-led al Qaeda affiliate which has also seized towns across the border in Iraq.

Activists opposed to Assad said dozens of Syrian members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had changed sides to join other Sunni Islamist factions which have taken advantage of a local backlash against the ISIL and the foreign al Qaeda jihadists prominent among its commanders.

The battles in Raqqa, a provincial capital on the Euphrates river in Syria's largely desert east, left bodies clad in the black favored by al Qaeda fighters lying in the streets. They followed similar violence elsewhere in recent days that have seen the ISIL lose manpower and abandon some of its positions.

“The ISIL has split roughly into two groups - locals who are beginning to defect and foreign fighters who seem intent on going on fighting,” Abedelrazzaq Shlas, an opposition activist in the province, told Reuters.

The fighting comes as groups in Iraq identifying themselves as ISIL have seized Sunni Muslim towns hundreds of miles away on the Euphrates in Iraq, challenging a Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad which they see as allied, like Assad, to Shi'ite Iran.

Speaking from Istanbul, Abdallah al-Faraj, a member of the Syrian National Coalition from Raqqa, said the ISIL has been driven out from most of the city and its units were heading to the town of al-Manakhel, 50 km (30 miles) away, where they have a training base and could be re-grouping.

Faraj said although the defeat of the ISIL is strengthening Nusra Front, which is also linked to al Qaeda, the Nusra are seen as a less hardline group composed of local fighters as opposed to foreigners.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid