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."
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid