It was embarrassing today that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, was forced to withdraw the invitation to Iran after the Syrian opposition threatened to boycott the talks if Iranian officials attended without first publicly committing to a transitional government for Syria, reports the Financial Times this evening.
The most recent update is that after months of achieving peace talks involving the Syrian government starting on Wednesday in Switzerland, a report was released on Monday which claimed to detail mass killing and torture of opponents by the Syrian regime.
Rescinding Iran’s invitation is embarrassing for UN chairman-secretary general, Ban Ki-moon who is presiding over the talks sponsored by the US and Russia.
What has come to light today is that Iran, the biggest outside backer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, publicly refused to sign up to any preconditions before attending. Mr. Ban faced a boycott threat from the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition umbrella, and heavy US pressure to rescind the invitation.
Oubai Shahbandar, a senior adviser to the Syrian opposition balked at the invitation to Iran. ‘Iran is not committed to a transition to a free Syria and has proven through the deployment of Iranian Revolutionary Guard occupational forces and proxy militias in Syria that it is actively working to entrench the Assad regime.’
Following Mr. Ban’s decision to withdraw the invitation to Iran, Jennifer Psaki, a US state department spokeswoman, said that ‘all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a long overdue political transition.’
It was discovered earlier today that a team of a team of three internationally respected war crimes prosecutors released a report that the authors said contained concrete evidence of ‘systematic torture and killing’ by the Syrian regime. It included graphic images showing signs of starvation, beatings and other forms of torture by a photographer who defected from Syria.
Lawyers who participated in bringing charges of genocide in the Sierra Leone and Milosevic Yugoslavian situations said there is sufficient evidence from these photos to bring war crime charges against Syrian government officials. Their investigation was commissioned by a London firm of solicitors on behalf of Qatar’s government, according to CNN and the Guardian, which first published the report.
The withdrawal of the invite to Iran demonstrates how fragile the situation is to bring Syria to the table for talks which have been three years in the negotiations.
A senior western diplomat in Tehran said: ‘Priority number one for Iran is not to keep Assad in power; priority number one for Iran is a continued presence in Syria and keeping the link to [Lebanon’s] Hizbollah.’
However, Iranian analysts and western diplomats say Iran’s position had not changed. ‘If Mr. Ban’s invitation to Iran is based on accepting the Geneva II communique, it means a precondition which is not acceptable to Iran,’ said Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and ultimate decision maker.
Syria has been ruled by President Bashar Assad's family since 1970, and Iran is Assad's strongest regional ally, supplying his government with advisers, money and materiel since the uprising began in 2011. The Islamic Republic's allies, most notably the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, have also gone to Syria to help bolster Assad's forces.
The last minute invitation to Iran had surprised both the U.S. and Europe.
Secretary of State John Kerry had expressed concerns about the invitation and France’s UN ambassador U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, stated that Iran ‘must accept explicitly’ the terms of the road map.
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