UN formally invites countries to Geneva II summit on Syria
By MICHAEL WILNER
US officials hope Iran will press Assad privately, if not publicly, to slow bombing campaign
WASHINGTON – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday formally
invited nations to participate in a peace summit on Syria, set to take place in
Geneva on January 22.
The UN , Russia and the United States agreed upon a
list of nations invited to the second major conference on Syrian reconciliation
during a trilateral meeting last month.
After comments from US Secretary
of State John Kerry over the weekend suggesting the US might be open to
participation from Iran, US officials clarified on Monday that the Islamic
Republic would not receive a formal invitation from the
In talks with the UN and Russia, the US insisted that
all invitees accept the tenets of a communique issued after the first peace
conference on Syria in June 2012. The findings of that summit call for a
transitional government entity that recognizes the opposition of the embattled
Syrian regime president, Bashar Assad.
“Iran would have to publicly
accept the Geneva I communique,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf
said on Monday, clarifying that “the main goal” of the conference “is to move
towards a political transition.”
Iran has been a benefactor of Assad
throughout the Syrian civil war, providing him and his forces with training,
arms and financing.
The Obama administration has said that Assad has no
role in a future Syria, but Harf said on Monday that his regime “plays a role in
putting in place a transitional government.”
On Sunday, Kerry said that
Iran already had delegates in Geneva for nuclear talks that could prove helpful
on the sidelines of international talks with Syria, should they choose to
“Are there ways for [Iran], conceivably, to weigh in? Can
their mission that is already in Geneva... be there in order to help the
process? It may be that there are ways that could happen,” Kerry
But speaking to Reuters, senior US administration officials said
that Iran should first press Assad to stop dropping barrel bombs — crudely made,
imprecise and very heavy bombs packed with TNT and dropped from helicopters —
indiscriminately on heavily-populated areas.
“There are... steps that
Iran could take to show the international community that they are serious about
playing a positive role. Those include calling for an end to the bombardment by
the Syrian regime of their own people...
and encouraging humanitarian
access,” said one of the officials.
A second official said that the
United States would be satisfied if Tehran were to work quietly with Damascus to
achieve those two goals rather than doing so publicly.
private, we’d take it either way at this point,” the second official
The January 22 conference “aims to bring two broadly representative
and credible delegations of the Syrian government and opposition to a
negotiating table in order to end the conflict and launch a political transition
process through the full implementation of the Geneva Communique,” the
secretary-general’s spokesman said Monday in a statement.
negotiations has built up stakes for the talks, which will include
representation from the Assad government as well as leading opposition
The Syrian Opposition Coalition is meeting in Istanbul this week
to determine exactly who will represent the opposition at the Geneva
Syrian opposition forces have fractured in recent weeks, with
various al-Qaida groups gaining support, fighting the Assad government as well
as one another for resources and territory.
Reuters contributed to this