UN invites Iran to take part in Syrian peace talks in Geneva as US expresses support for 'consultations' with Tehran on Syria
The US said on Monday that it supports worthwhile talks that would lead to a political solution in Syria, even if those discussions included Iran.
"We support efforts to restart meaningful dialogue on a political track aimed at a solution based on the 2012 Geneva Communique," a State Department official told the Anadolu Agency (AA).
Noting that any political solution in Syria must be determined and led by Syrians, the US official said all countries should play a constructive role, citing Iran.
The UN’s special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council on Friday that he planned a series of one-on-one meetings early next month with warring parties in Syria.
Iran has been invited to the Syria peace talks in Geneva in May along with the country's government, opposition groups and other regional powers.
"If Iran wants to play a constructive role in peacefully ending the Syrian conflict, it should cease its support for the Assad regime and endorse the principles in the Geneva Communique," said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.
Asked if the US would mind sitting at the negotiation table with Iran, Rathke said the US special envoy for Syria, Daniel Rubenstein, will take part in the talks.
"We don't see these as negotiations; these are consultations," he added.
The Geneva Communique is a road map to a political solution in Syria that calls for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power.
The UN Office in Geneva will host separate talks with rival Syrian groups in May for a period expected to last between four and six weeks.
"Iran has been invited to these separately conducted consultations," UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told AA in an email on Monday.
Fawzi added that no list of opposition groups expected to participate in the talks had been established.
The Syria talks in May are to be "low key, low profile," Fawzi said on Friday in a press conference, adding that the talks would take place mostly at an ambassadorial and experts level.
The next round of Syria talks aim to find a political solution to the conflict, now in its fifth year, which killed more than 220,000 people and forced almost 4 million to flee the country.
Invitations to participants in the Geneva consultation went out last week
The Geneva conference II on Syria in 2014 failed to bring a political solution to end the conflict.
Iran is President Assad's main regional ally and has acknowledged sending military advisers to Syria. It has however denied having combat troops on the ground.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, has sent fighters to bolster Assad’s forces.
The secretary general of the Istanbul-based Syrian Turks Association said on Monday that "Syrian opponents are fighting against Iran, Hezbollah and secret powers rather than Syrian troops in Syria."