Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Syria peace talks: Russian Foreign Minster says withdrawing Iran's invitation is 'a mistake, but not a catastrophe'

Russia’s Foreign Minister has called the decision by the UN Secretary-General to withdraw Iran’s invitation to join Syria peace talks a mistake, but not a catastrophe.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov said Ban Ki-Moon’s rescind on his last-minute offer on Sunday for Iran to join the negotiations would have a negative impact on the UN’s image.

Iran has so far been Bashar Al-Assad's main regional ally, supporting his regime financially, with advisers, and equipment since the uprising began in 2011, that has so far killed more than 130,000 people.

The talks due to begin in Montreux, Switzerland, on Wednesday, were momentarily jeopardised by the invitation after the Syrian opposition threatened they would not attend, while the US pushed for a renege on the offer.

“This story hasn't helped strengthen the UN authority,” Lavrov said at a news conference, adding that recalling the offer looked “ unseemly.”
The unease over the offer highlights the different views over Syria held by the US and Russia.

Russia has been a key ally to Syria during the crisis, having shielded President Bashar Assad's regime from United Nations sanctions, and continuing to supply it with weapons throughout the civil war.

Mr Lavrov reiterated that Russia considers it essential that Iran’s has a presence at the talks.

He also warned that “The absence of Iran isn't going to help strengthen the unity of the world's Muslims,” and would have a negative impact on global efforts to fight terrorism.

The Foreign Minister also insisted that Russia is not supplying Syria with any weapons that are “banned [by international agreements] and could destabilize the situation in the region.”

The negotiations beginning on Wednesday come as a report by three former warm crimes prosecutors was published by the Guardian and US news network CNN, showing evidence of systematic torture in Syria, with around 11,000 detainees having been executed since the start of the uprising.

Damascus has denied all the claims of abuse.