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Report: Iran gets ‘verbal invitation’ to Syria conference

Published: Updated:

An Iranian deputy foreign minister said his country had been invited to a planned international peace conference in Geneva aimed at ending the war in Syria, Iranian state television reported on Wednesday.

The United States and Russia want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his foes to send delegates to the proposed talks, but disagree over whether Iran, an ally of Assad, should attend.

“We received a verbal invitation to take part in the second Geneva conference. Iran is a serious part of resolving thecrisis in Syria,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian, told Iran’s Press TV.

He did not say who had issued the invitation, but said Iran would respond after it had received a written invitation.

Abdullahian blamed the West for stoking violence in Syria, saying the United States and European countries were sending weapons there “despite the active presence of terrorist groups”.

The United States, Britain and France deny arming Syrian rebels, but have not ruled out doing so in future. Assad’s opponents have received funds and weapons from some Gulf countries, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

There was no immediate comment from the United Nations or from countries promoting the Geneva peace talks on Abdullahian’s statement that Iran had been verbally invited.

In Geneva, an Arab diplomat said Iran’s participation was the main sticking point in efforts to convene the conference.

“The Russians insisted Iran should attend. The Americans say no way,” the diplomat said. “Iran is dying to participate. The Saudis don’t mind being absent if that is the price to pay (for Iran’s exclusion).”

Moscow and Washington had initially hoped to hold the talks in June, but the date has slipped, partly because of dissensions in the Syrian opposition. Assad’s forces have made military gains in the meantime, strengthening his negotiating position.

The Arab diplomat said he doubted the conference could take place any time soon in these circumstances.