Iran was set to host a conference yesterday on Syria in a bid to take over the role of brokering peace in its beleaguered Arab ally, replacing Kofi Annan, who last week resigned as the UN-Arab envoy in the crisis.
However, participation in the meeting was looking thin, with no government confirming its foreign minister would be taking part.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country was attempting to revive parts of Annan’s plan, notably: implementing a ceasefire, sending humanitarian aid and laying groundwork for national dialogue in Syria.
“I hereby announce Iran’s readiness to host a meeting of countries committed to immediately implementing these steps in hopes of ending the violence,” Salehi wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece ahead of the gathering.
However, while Salehi was quoted on Wednesday by official Iranian media as saying “12 to 13 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America” would take part in the “consultative” meeting, due to start at around 7pm in Tehran, he did not identify them.
Only those governments with a “realistic position” on Syria were invited, it said, implying countries which shared Tehran’s position.
“Military means alone won’t end the crisis, and a political agenda that is neither inclusive nor comprehensive will also fail,” Salehi wrote in the Post.
It would be an “illusion” to think that an orderly power transition could happen “should [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad abruptly fall,” he added.
However, several foreign ministers who had been invited to the conference sent their regrets.
Kuwait has officially told Iran it would not be attending, Kuwaiti Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Jarallah told Al-Seyassah newspaper.
A Lebanese diplomatic official told media on Tuesday that his country would not be represented because of its policy of “restraint” in the Syrian conflict.
Iran’s IRNA news agency said Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci would not travel “due to a very busy workload.” His deputy foreign minister would go instead.
Russian reports relayed in Iran suggested Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would also not make it. However, they said Russia’s ambassador to Tehran would sit in.
Iran’s stance on Syria hews to that of Russia, which along with China has blocked three attempts in the UN Security Council to sanction al-Assad’s regime.
Tehran and Moscow believe al-Assad’s government has been unfairly singled out by Western criticism and that the rebels’ role has been glossed over.
As diplomatic battles raged on, Syria’s army, locked in a fierce battle for control of Aleppo, pounded rebel-held areas of the commercial capital on Thursday, rights activists reported.
An intense bombardment rocked the neighborhoods of Hanano, Saif al-Dawla, Shaar and Shakur from 3am, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Violence across Syria on Wednesday claimed the lives of 167 people — 95 civilians, 54 soldiers and 18 rebels, the Observatory said, adding that 33 died in Aleppo, including 24 civilians and nine rebel fighters.