LATEST: FM Zarif — I Told UN’s Ban Several Times That Iran Would Not Accept Syria Pre-Conditions

All issues concerning Iran — even the start of implementation of November’s interim nuclear deal — were overtaken on Monday by the dispute over the United Nations invitation to Tehran to attend Wednesday’s international “peace” conference on Syria.

After months of a US veto on Iran’s participation, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued the invitation on Sunday. However, he was forced to withdraw it after Tehran refused to commit itself to a proviso that President Assad step down from power in favor of a transitional governing authority.

A regular EA contributor summarized, “Iran snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to take advantage of the utter turmoil in Western policy circles, who were caught completely off guard after [Tehran] had received and accepted the invitation.”

The Islamic Republic is likely to watch from the sidelines as the “Geneva II” conference convenes on Wednesday. It will issue comments backing the demand of the Assad regime that the confrontation of foreign-backed “terrorists” is the main concern of the gathering. Of course, Tehran continue its economic and military support of Damascus, in the expectation that the conference will achieve little and attention will soon return to the political and military battlefield.

Iran is also likely, with Russia, to prepare the propaganda line over the failure of the conference: namely, that the problem is the “extremists” in the opposition.

Doing so, it will effectively come back to its declaration Monday that President Assad cannot be forced from power. And, post-conference, it may face less resistance than it did yesterday.

FM Zarif: I Told UN’s Ban Several Times That Iran Would Not Accept Syria Pre-Conditions

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has declared that — contrary to statements by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon — Iran never accepted the proviso, in return for attendance at the “Geneva II” conference on Syria, that President Assad must step aside for a transitional governing authority.

Speaking to reporters during a mission to Turkmenistan, Zarif said, “Mr Ban called me several times. I told him directly that we won’t accept any preconditions to attend Geneva II.”