Iran will not be part of the United Nations last ditch effort to revive the faltering peace plan in Syria, despite initial support from UN special envoy Kofi Annan.
In a statement Wednesday, Kofi Annan unveiled the composition of the UN Action Group for Syria meeting, which will be held in Geneva on June 30. The Action Group includes Turkey as well as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United State. Annan did not comment on Iran’s exclusion from discussions.
United Nations chief Ban Ki Moon, European Union representative Catherine Ashton and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby are also expected to attend, as are the Foreign Minsters of Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, who will be participating in their capacity as Chairs of the League of Arab States.
In a press conference last week, the former Secretary General argued the UN Action Group should be composed of countries who have influence over both parties to the conflict in Syria, and said he believed Iran should be included in the talks.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin Tuesday said his government agreed with the former Secretary General’s assessment.
“Iran and Saudi Arabia should be there because they have an influence on the situation.” Churkin told reporters outside the Security Council.
Iran continues to be the Assad government’s strongest ally in the region, while Saudi Arabia reportedly has close ties to armed Sunni opposition groups throughout the country.
Western government claim Tehran’s support of the Assad regime has been counter-productive to the peace plan and has fueled ongoing fighting.
Government officials in Damascus have repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait of arming and funding Syrian opposition groups over the past several months. Tensions between Turkey and Syria reached a peak last weekend after the Syrian military shot down a Turkish plane it claims had entered its airspace. Turkey says the plane was unarmed and conducting a training mission over international waters.
Annan says he hopes the Action Group will be able to identify new measures to secure the implementation of the UN peace plan and ceasefire in Syria as well as agree on guidelines and principles for the country’s political transition.
Syrian human right organizations says 15 000 people have been killed since the Assad regime’s initial crackdown on anti-government protests 16 months ago degenerated into an armed conflict.