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Iran invited to attend Syrian peace talks

Iran has been invited to attend a meeting of foreign ministers in the Swiss city of Montreux on Wednesday ahead of internationally brokered peace talks between Syria's warring factions, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Sunday.

Ban said that Zarif had assured him that Iran "understands that the basis of the talks" is the full implementation of the road map adopted by the U.S., Russia and other major powers in Geneva in June 2012. That plan called for the creation of a transitional Syrian government with full executive powers.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had said he would welcome Iran's participation — but only if Tehran endorsed earlier diplomatic agreements that called for a transitional government in Syria that would be created by mutual consent among the Syrian factions.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Iran must agree to the principles established in the earlier peace conference. She said the U.N. invitation "must be rescinded" if Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communique.

It was not clear how Syria's main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, would react to the invitation to Iran.

Ban appealed to the Syrian parties "to keep one goal in mind: the end of the suffering of the Syrian people and the beginning of a transition to a new Syria."

The last U.N. estimate in July put the death toll from the Syrian civil war at 100,000, though activists more recently gave a figure of 130,000. Along with 6.5 million internally displaced people, there are 2.3 million Syrians who have fled the country during the war.

The Canadian Press
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