Iran was unexpectedly invited by the United Nations at the last minute to attend the Syria peace conference. However, that invitation threw into doubt the talks on Monday, with the opposition from Syria stating it would not attend unless Ban Ki-moon the U.N. Secretary-General withdraws his invitation.
Iran is the biggest foreign supporter of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and its participation had been a contentious issue that has loomed over the talks that will be attended for the first time by both the current Assad regime and its opposition. The talks are scheduled to being in Switzerland on Wednesday.
Adding to worries over the upcoming talks, Assad said he might seek reelection in 2014, effectively ending any talk of his departure from power being negotiated, which is the biggest demand of his enemies.
The invitation by the UN Secretary-General caught the powers in the West off guard. France and the United States both stated that Iran was not a welcome participant at the upcoming talks unless it would back a Geneva accord publicly from 2012 that called for Syria to have a transitional government.
The main opposition group from Syria in exile is the National Coalition, which contentiously agreed it would take part on the conference dubbed Geneva 2 just two days ago. However, it said it would pull out of the talks unless the Iran invitation was withdrawn.
Ban said the invitation he issued was due to Javad Zarif the foreign minister in Iran telling him that Tehran had agreed to the accord from 2012 in principle.
However, Iran announced it would be attending this weeks’ talks without any preconditions being accepted, which apparently means it is standing by its longstanding position of support for Syria President al-Assad.
Russia, which long lobbied for Iran’s invitation to the talks, criticized the National Coalition and the West for its opposition for Iran’s attendance.
The ongoing diplomatic give and take is threatening to overshadow the conference that appeared to be doomed before its start, with very little chance of obtaining a breakthrough, ending a war that has taken the lives of more than 130,000 people.