US sets conditions for Iran role in Syria talks

The Obama administration on Monday spelled out its conditions for Iran to play a role in Syrian peace talks after Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door for the country's participation.

Iran would first have to lean on Bashar Assad's regime to cease bombing rebel-held civilian areas and allow humanitarian aid to reach them, a U.S. official told Reuters. The possibility, however, remains “less likely than likely,” an official told the wire service.

“There are ... steps that Iran could take to show the international community that they are serious about playing a positive role,” Reuters quoted an official as saying. “Those include calling for an end to the bombardment by the Syrian regime of their own people. It includes calling for and encouraging humanitarian access.”

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Kerry on Sunday for the first time suggested that Iran could be allowed to participate in peace talks tentatively scheduled to take place in Montreux, Switzerland, on Jan. 22. The U.S. and some of its allies have so far opposed Iran's participation because of its support for Assad, while Russia and the U.N.'s special envoy for Syria argue that Iran has a major role to play in helping end the conflict that has been raging since March 2011.

Kerry ruled out giving Iran a role as a formal member of the talks, but said the Iranians could be invited on the “sidelines” in remarks to the press in Jerusalem.

“Are there ways for them conceivably to weigh in? Can their mission that is already in Geneva be there in order to help the process?” Kerry said. “It may be that there are ways that could happen.”

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