UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has withdrawn his invitation to Iran to join this week’s peace conference on Syria.Ban Ki-Moon was forced to act after the exiled Syrian opposition threatened to withdraw from the talks if Iran – a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – takes part in the conference.
The United States also demanded the surprise invitation be withdrawn if Iran did not support a Syria declaration adopted by major world powers in Geneva in 2012.
The Geneva declaration had called for a transitional government to guide the country out of the three-year war which the UN says has killed more than 100,000 people.
The UN leader said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had repeatedly assured him that he “understood and supported” the aim of the peace conference to set up an interim government.
But Iran’s UN ambassador declared his country would not join the peace talks, due to open in Switzerland on Wednesday, if it was required to accept the Geneva roadmap.
During a news conference in New York, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that “in a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the conference, including the Geneva Communique”.
“The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment,” Mr Nesirky said.
The Syrian National Coalition has said it will join the talks now that Iran’s invitation has been retracted.
“We appreciate the United Nations and Ban Ki-Moon’s understanding of our position. We think they have taken the right decision,” said Monzer Akbik, a spokesman for the coalition.
High-ranking delegations from the United States, Russia and close to 40 other countries are attending the talks.
Face-to-face negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents – the first since the conflict began three years ago – are to start on Friday in Geneva.