Negotiators have failed to reach an agreement on whether Iran should be invited to Syria peace talks in Geneva next month, U.N. and Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday.
Brahimi said the delegations to the Geneva 2 conference have been agreed upon except for Iran.
The U.N. Syria envoy said the conference will include Saudi Arabia, but the United States remains unconvinced that Iran's participation “would be the right thing to do.”
“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 to do,” he said in statements carried by Agence France-Presse.
A senior U.S. official said on Friday it was “difficult to imagine” Iran attending Syrian peace talks next month as it had not endorsed the June 2012 communique calling for a transitional government and was providing military support to Damascus.
The official said talks would continue with Brahimi and other states on Iran's participation in the peace
talks, but there were many ways for Tehran to take part and this was only the beginning of the process.
“Iran in this instance is the only country that has put its own military people into the fight on the ground, that is a unique position,” the senior U.S. official said.
Brahimi’s statements to reporters came after a Friday meeting with U.S. and Russian delegations to try to agree which nations should be invited.
The veteran mediator’s intensive shuttle diplomacy between Geneva, the Middle East and the capitals of world powers last month helped finally set Jan. 22 as the start date for talks in Switzerland.
Iran is the main backer, along with Russia, of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a conflict that has lasted more than two and a half years, killed more than 126,000 people and uprooted millions more.
Tehran has said it would attend Geneva 2 if invited.
Meanwhile, French President François Hollande said Friday that Geneva 2 would be “useless” if Assad remains the head of state.
Being asked to attend Geneva 2 “can’t be an objective, a satisfaction,” Hollande said while briefly discussing the Syrian conflict with other leaders during the European Summit.
“If Geneva 2 has to be the confirmation for Bashar al-Assad or the political transition from Assad to Assad, than there are few chances that we approve of this meeting as the political solution to the Syrian issue,” Hollande said.
In the same vein, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he does not rule out the option that Assad will take part in presidential elections to be held next year.
"Indeed, he said he didn’t exclude the possibility of running for presidency once again next year. He will make a decision closer to an election and it will depend on whether he would feel the support from the people," Lavrov added.
“[Assad] repeatedly said he wasn’t going to leave his country and wished to stay with his people and fulfill his duties," Lavrov added.