Booting Iran out of Syria talks 'mistake' but 'not disaster': Russia

Booting Iran out of Syria talks 'mistake' but 'not disaster': Russia

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Booting Iran out of Syria talks mistake but not disaster: Russia

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends his annual press conference in Moscow, on Jan. 21. AFP photo

Russia said on Jan. 21 that an unprecedented decision by the United Nations to bar Iran from taking part in this week's Syria peace conference was a "mistake" that cast a shadow on the reputation of the global body.

At the same time the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov downplayed the move, saying the conference in the Swiss town of Montreux on Jan. 22 was a "one-day event."

"Of course this is a mistake," Lavrov told reporters. "But no disaster has happened," he added.

"In any case we are talking about a one-day event on January 22 to which some 40 foreign ministers of various states including from the most remote regions have been invited." "Of course, despite the largely ceremonial nature of this event, Iran's absence from a list of 40 states cannot but cause questions." "The symbolism is still important," he added.

"I am just sorry that this whole story did not boost the authority of the United Nations." In an abrupt reversal, the U.N. barred Iran Jan. 20 from the peace conference after it refused to back calls for a transitional government to end the three-year war in Syria.

The unprecedented diplomatic action averted a Syrian opposition boycott of the talks. But a key bloc in the opposition coalition broke away in protest at the proposed talks with President Bashar al-Assad's representatives.

"The Syrian crisis has laid bare the contradictions that have accumulated in the region including within the Muslim world," said Lavrov. 

Iran doubts success of talks

Meanwhile, snubeed Tehran said the chances of Syria peace talks succeeding without its participation are "not that great."

"It is clear that a comprehensive solution to the Syria issue will not be found when all influential parties are not involved in the process," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Jan. 21.

"Everyone knows that without Iran the chances of a real solution to Syria are not that great." Tehran is accused of providing military and financial support to Damascus.

Araqchi's comments to state television came a day after the United Nations abruptly withdrew Tehran's invitation to the conference on Jan. 21 over its refusal to back calls for a transitional government to end the war in Syria.

Iranian participation in the peace talks has long been a thorny issue in preparations for the forum dubbed Geneva II and due to begin on Jan. 21 in the Swiss town of Montreux.

The United States wants Tehran to sign up to the communiqué issued after the first Geneva meeting in June 2012, which called for a transitional government to replace al-Assad.

"We were ready to participate in the Geneva II conference and do our part, but we will not accept a precondition that would narrow the solution within set parameters," Araqchi said.