Iran’s Zarif, Brahimi discuss Syria peace talks

Zarif and Brahimi talked by phone “about the latest on the Geneva 2 conference”

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi discussed the Syria crisis after negotiators failed to agree on Tehran’s role in upcoming talks, the ministry said Saturday.

Zarif and Brahimi talked by phone “about the latest on the Geneva 2 conference” -- a Russian-U.S. initiated forum scheduled for Jan. 22 seeking to end the civil war in Syria, the foreign ministry website said.

Zarif, it said, “insisted on a political solution” that includes talks between the parties to the conflict which has claimed some 126,000 lives since it erupted nearly three years ago.

The website did not give any other details, or say when the phone conversation took place.

On Friday, Brahimi said negotiators failed to reach agreement on whether Iran should be invited to the peace talks in Switzerland next month, but that Tehran was not yet “off the list” of participants.

“On Iran, we haven’t agreed yet. It’s no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran’s participation would be the right thing,” said Brahimi, who is tasked by the United Nations and Arab League with brokering peace talks.

Iran is Syria’s main regional ally and a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in its struggle against rebels backed by Western powers and Arab nations.

Tehran is accused of providing military and financial support to Damascus, despite repeatedly maintaining that it has no official military presence in Syria and that its backing is in the form of humanitarian aid.

Iran says it wants to attend the peace talks but insists it will not agree to preconditions, alluding to the result of a previous forum that called for a transitional government in Damascus.

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