Kerry says Iran could help on sidelines of Syrian peace talks

JERUSALEM Sun Jan 5, 2014 7:51am EST

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves upon arrival for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves upon arrival for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 4, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States on Sunday appeared for the first time to hold out the possibility that Iran might play a role on the sidelines of a Syria peace conference even if Tehran is not formally invited.

Washington, and Syrian opposition groups, have long had reservations about the participation of Iran, which they accuse of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with manpower and arms during the near three-year uprising against his rule.

Despite the improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations this year with a landmark nuclear deal struck in November, ties are strained by many issues, including the Syrian civil war in which at least 100,000 people have been killed and millions uprooted.

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Kerry reiterated U.S. opposition to Iran being a formal member of the so-called "Geneva 2" talks scheduled for January 22 in Switzerland because it does not support a 2012 international agreement on Syria.

That so-called "Geneva 1" accord called for the Syrian government and opposition to form a transitional government "by mutual consent", a phrase Washington says rules out any role for Assad. Russia, a sponsor of the plan, disputes that view.

Kerry, in a shift in tone, held out the possibility of Iran playing a constructive if limited role at the conference even if it does not endorse the 2012 agreement.

"Now, could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways for them, 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," he said.

"But that has to be determined by the (U.N.) secretary-general, it has to be determined by Iranian intentions themselves," he told reporters in Jerusalem, where he trying to nudge Israel and the Palestinians toward a peace agreement.

"But in terms of a formal invitation or participation - that is for those who support the Geneva 1 implementation."

Senior U.S. officials said they believed it was the first time Kerry had publicly raised the possibility of Iran playing some kind of role at the talks without signing up to the Geneva 1 principles.

Relations between Iran and Washington, frozen for decades, have improved sharply since the election in June of President Hassan Rouhani who promised to pursue a policy of "constructive engagement" with the West.

In the clearest sign of warming ties, six major powers and Iran reached an agreement on November 24 designed to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for limited Western sanctions relief.

However, U.S. accusations that Iran supports international "terrorism" and is fuelling the violence in Syria with armaments continue to divide Washington and Tehran.

"Iran could participate very easily if they would simply accept the Geneva 1 premise on which Geneva 2 is based," Kerry said, referring to the 2012 pact calling for the formation of a transitional government with the mutual consent of the Syrian government and opposition.

"We are happy to have Iran be helpful. Everybody is happy to have Iran be helpful," he added.

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ari Rabinowitch; editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (9)
Aryanpour wrote:
Iran with her rational foreign policy displays that she is looking for a peaceful solution for all regional issues which will be acceptable for all involved sides. Iran even proposed to visit Saudi Arabia and hold talks with Saudis for the same reason.

Jan 05, 2014 2:56am EST  --  Report as abuse
amit_mishra wrote:
Absolutely amazing and interesting to see!really very important issue for world,we all doing hard work to tackle this complex and complicate issue,stability in the region,why Iran could be play roll in this region.

My amazing,expert in foreign policy beautiful smart honey Margaret Brennan CBS news as well as working for states department mentioned after killing of nearly 130000 people including innocent children nearly 2 million people displaced in refugee camps.

Margaret also mentioned united states and united nation working hard to provide aid,food,medicine,water to people of Syria who survive between civil war,condition become worst while both side rebel and Assad regime not allowed many aid.

Margaret also mentioned situation become more complicate while people know terror group taking strong hold in Syria,what we call its civil war or war against terrorism,its big question for united states,how to handle situation.

Margaret also mentioned we seen probably in Syria many foreign fighter join battle,Sunni,Shiite group come from different countries mostly from Lebanon,Iraq,Iran,Borden different group support different sides,Assad regime and rebel regime,also al-quaeda take advantage from this fighters.so Iran play major roll to withdraw fighters from Syria and give support to bring stability.

Margaret also mentioned Geneva 2 meeting is hope for all,both parties agree for peace talk but we don’t know they are agree to put pressure on Assad to stepping down,but we hopeful we get something from this meeting,what we working for….

Jan 05, 2014 4:17am EST  --  Report as abuse
amit_mishra wrote:
Absolutely amazing and interesting to see!really very important issue for world,we all doing hard work to tackle this complex and complicate issue,stability in the region,why Iran could be play roll in this region.

My amazing,expert in foreign policy beautiful smart honey Margaret Brennan CBS news as well as working for states department mentioned after killing of nearly 130000 people including innocent children nearly 2 million people displaced in refugee camps.

Margaret also mentioned united states and united nation working hard to provide aid,food,medicine,water to people of Syria who survive between civil war,condition become worst while both side rebel and Assad regime not allowed many aid.

Margaret also mentioned situation become more complicate while people know terror group taking strong hold in Syria,what we call its civil war or war against terrorism,its big question for united states,how to handle situation.

Margaret also mentioned we seen probably in Syria many foreign fighter join battle,Sunni,Shiite group come from different countries mostly from Lebanon,Iraq,Iran,Borden different group support different sides,Assad regime and rebel regime,also al-quaeda take advantage from this fighters.so Iran play major roll to withdraw fighters from Syria and give support to bring stability.

Margaret also mentioned Geneva 2 meeting is hope for all,both parties agree for peace talk but we don’t know they are agree to put pressure on Assad to stepping down,but we hopeful we get something from this meeting,what we working for….

Jan 05, 2014 4:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
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