U.N. chief urges Russia, Iran to push Syria talks

Ban Ki-moon says Iran is one of the important regional countries who can play an important role in Syria peace talks

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s allies Russia and Iran on Friday to help re-start peace talks aimed at ending the three-year Syrian civil war.

The U.N.-led peace talks, dubbed Geneva II, broke down on Feb. 15 when a second round ended and no new date was set for them to reconvene.

The UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will travel to close Damascus ally Iran for meetings with senior officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Friday.

“Lakhdar Brahimi will come to Tehran on Sunday afternoon,” the Mehr news agency quoted Abdollahian as saying.

Mehr said Brahimi would meet President Hassan Rowhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif among others.

Brahimi said earlier this week the Syrian government was engaged in “delaying tactics” aimed at slowing the resumption of the talks to end the conflict that has left more than 146,000 people dead and driven millions from their homes.

“Anyone who has influence, the Russian government or the Iranian government, may impress upon the Syrian authorities so that they will come with a more constructive attitude to the Geneva conference,” the U.N. chief told reporters.

Ban was speaking after an informal meeting of the U.N. General Assembly attended by Brahimi.

“Iran is one of the important regional countries who can play an important role, including impressing upon the Syrian authorities to come to the Geneva conference in a more constructive way,” Ban said.

Asked about the upcoming presidential vote in Syria -- planned for this summer -- Ban repeated Brahimi’s comments from Wednesday.

If President “Assad becomes a candidate, then it is very difficult to move ahead the Geneva peace process,” because one of the goals of the talks is to create a transitional government in Syria, Ban said.

Bashar al-Assad has not announced his candidacy but is widely expected to seek another seven-year term.

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