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The United Nations on Monday rescinded an invitation for Iran to attend the Geneva II Syria Peace Summit to be held later this week, following pressure from the US and Syrian opposition groups.
The about-turn comes just a day after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told reporters, “I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis“.
But on Monday, Ban reversed course almost completely and said he was disappointed with recent Iranian comments that were not consistent with the assurances he said he had received from Tehran promising to play a constructive role in the talks just a day earlier.
According to press reports, the UN’s Secretary-General came under “intense American pressure” to revoke the Iran invitation. According to the Washington Post, some US officials suggested that the US could have walked out of the talks before they even convened.
According to the US State Department, Iran has to comply with a central condition before it can attend the Syria peace talks.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that Iran has not yet accepted the tenets of the Geneva I communique in 2012 which call for a “transitional body to govern Syria” by the mutual consent of all the summit participants.
Late on Sunday, Syria’s largest anti-Assad opposition bloc said it was angered by Ban’s announcement and threatened to withdraw from participating in the Geneva II talks on January 22.
According to Reuters, quoting National Coalition spokesperson Louay Safi on Twitter, “The Syrian Coalition announces that they will withdraw their attendance in Geneva 2 unless Ban Ki-moon retracts Iran’s invitation”.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry that Iran’s role was important.
“[The] presence of Saudi Arabia, Iran [are] necessary at the Geneva-2 talks on Syria, it’s obvious for Russia… We’ve called for the [opposition] National Coalition to work with other oppositional groups: the delegation should be truly representative,” said Lavrov.
China has also supported Iran’s participation in the Syria peace talks.
“Proper resolution of the Syria issue will be impossible without the participation and support of regional countries, especially countries with leverage over concerned parties in Syria,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying has previously said.
Iran’s participation has for nearly a year been a source of contention between Russia and the US and has been a partial reason that the peace talks have been repeatedly delayed.