U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan will keep Iran involved in efforts to halt the Syria conflict even though it has not been invited to an international meeting on the crisis, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Wednesday.
Annan will “brief’ Iran after Saturday’s ministerial meeting in Geneva and “will also ensure their continued engagement,” Nesirky told reporters.
In a statement, Annan said he had invited foreign ministers from the five major powers -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States -- as well as Turkey, the European Union, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, but made no mention of Iran.
“The objectives of the Action Group for Syria are to identify steps and measures to secure full implementation of the six-point plan ... including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms,” Annan said in the statement.
Annan, whose peace plan for Syria has so far failed to halt the bloodshed, is working with foreign governments and all sides in the war to bring about a peaceful and comprehensive settlement, his deputy Jean-Marie Guehenno said.
“But this effort cannot be open-ended. Time is running out. Syria is spiraling into deeper and more destructive violence,” Guehenno told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Annan’s efforts in recent weeks have focused on setting up an action group on Syria which he now wants to convene on Saturday in a bid to find a common position on a resolution to the crisis, Guehenno said.
At the moment, “all sides appear to not believe in the possibility of a political solution,” he said.
“The opposition remains divided between those who favor a peaceful political solution, those who reject any understanding with the government, and those who support continued armed resistance,” he said.
It was not clear how the question of Iran’s participation - which the United States, Britain and France have objected to due to stalled talks on Tehran’s nuclear program - has been resolved. Tehran is a neighbor of Syria and close Assad ally.
France said Annan’s action group must find a common position on a credible political solution to the crisis.
“The action group should agree on the principles of a democratic transition in Syria as well as the priority which is to stop the repression and allow the free access of humanitarian aid to the civilian population,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in Paris.
“If this meeting in Geneva on Saturday is confirmed, this is the message that France will bring,” he said.
Chinese diplomat Xia Jingge, speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, said that Annan’s mediation and plan were an important and realistic channel to ease the violence and pave the way for a political solution.
From her side, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose attendance to the Geneva talks was later confirmed, said the United States stood ready to support international envoy Kofi Annan’s push to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s crisis.
Speaking at the start of a European visit focused heavily on the Syrian bloodshed that has killed around 15,000 people, Clinton said she supported the former U.N .secretary general’s efforts to “prepare for a democratic transition that leads to a post-Assad Syria.”
“I’ve been in close consultation with special envoy Kofi Annan about the prospects for a meeting that would focus on a roadmap for political transition in Syria,” Clinton said during a visit to Helsinki.
Top State Department officials have previously insisted Clinton would only attend the meeting if all parties agreed on the need for political transition in Syria.
“We want to make sure any country that participates firmly supports the envoy’s transition plan and his original six point plan,” Clinton said.
Russia, which has ties to Syria’s military and the ruling Ba’ath Party that stretch back to the Soviet era, has stressed the need for Syrians to decide their own future and has not ruled out Assad staying in power.
Clinton said there was “great hope that this perhaps can be a turning point in the very tragic circumstances affecting the Syrian people.”
If an agreement were to be reached at the meeting, “that’s the first time that the international community will really evidence a direction that I think Assad will have to respond to,” she said.
Turkey will not go to war with Syria
Meanwhile, the Turkish prime minister said on Wednesday that his country is not going to war with neighboring Syria over the shooting down of a Turkish warplane, but analysts expect a higher risk of clashes on the border.
Days after the Phantom F-4 jet was brought down by Syrian defenses, leaving its two crew members missing, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has no hostile intent towards any country.
“As Turkey, we have no intention of attacking” Syria, he said during a military ceremony in Ankara.
His declaration came a day after he branded Syria “a clear and imminent threat” and promised a harsher military response to any border violation.
Wednesday’s newspapers headlined Ankara’s hardening attitude, with the Milliyet daily saying, “Syria is now a de facto enemy.”
Analysts dismissed the prospects of a war but warned of escalating tensions on Turkey’s 910-kilometre southern border with Syria.
Erdogan broke with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, a former friend and ally, calling him “a bloody dictator,” after unrest that erupted mid-March last year met a bloody response from Damascus, killing thousands of civilians and sending tens of thousands of refugees into Turkey.