Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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Iran ‘hostile’ to US involvement in Syria talks

Iranian officials said Wednesday they were strongly opposed to the United States joining Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan next week, local media reported.

"We are hostile to their presence and we have not invited them," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said late Tuesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

That goes against the position of the other two organisers of the talks -- Russia and Turkey -- which have said the new US administration of Donald Trump should be represented in Astana on Monday.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council which oversees international coordination on the Syrian war, confirmed on Wednesday that Iran had refused to invite the US.

"There is no reason for the United States to participate in the organising of political initiatives in the Syrian crisis and it is out of the question that they should have a role in the Astana negotiations," he said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Next week's talks, which aim to bring together representatives of the Syrian government and rebel groups, mark the first time since the conflict began in 2011 that the US has not been at the centre of peace negotiations.

Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told AFP that any expansion of participants "could increase the risk of failure".

"Our policy is to not add other countries at this stage," he said.

The talks come in the wake of President Bashar al-Assad's symbolic victory last month in retaking Aleppo, Syria's second city and a key rebel stronghold through much of the war.

Iran and Russia have been the key diplomatic and military backers of Syria in the war, while Turkey has supported rebel groups.

The three countries are still discussing which officials will travel to Astana, Ghasemi said, adding that other countries could be included in later stages if the "first steps" are successful.

"The meeting will not be at the ministerial level. It will probably be at the deputy minister level," he said.

Source: National News Agency