A Turkish official told Today's Zaman that Turkey will attend the ministerial-level meeting, which Annan says is aimed at seeking an end to the violence and agreeing on principles for a “Syrian-led political transition.”
In a statement, Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, said he has invited foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States -- as well as Turkey, the European Union, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. There was, however, no mention of Iran, whose participation was opposed by the US. Saudi Arabia, another key regional player, was also not invited.
Russia, which has used its veto power at the UN Security Council to block Western attempts to impose harsher sanctions on Syria for its deadly crackdown on anti-regime protests, has insisted that Iran's participation was crucial to the success of the Geneva meeting.
“Iran must be present. Otherwise the circle of participants will be incomplete and will not gather everybody who has influence on all Syrian sides,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday.
The US, on the other hand, was adamantly opposed to Iran taking part. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said Iran’s participation would be a “red line” for the United States because it has been overt in its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on the opposition.
Annan has previously said that Iran “should be part of the solution” to the Syrian crisis but has been coy about whether he believes Iran’s presence at the meeting is vital.
Turkey is at odds with Assad’s ally Iran, saying the embattled president has lost his legitimacy, but Turkish officials have expressed no concern over the possible participation of Iran at the meeting. An official, speaking to Today’s Zaman on conditions of anonymity, said on Wednesday that the dispute over Iranian participation concerned the relevant sides, not Ankara. “There is no problem, as far as we are concerned,” the official said.
It was not immediately clear whether Saturday’s meeting will also discuss rising tensions between Turkey and Syria in the wake of Syria’s downing of a Turkish military jet on Friday.
Clinton hopeful meeting can be turning point
Clinton said on Wednesday she has “great hope” that the upcoming Geneva meeting will make a difference in the Syrian crisis, adding that the US supports Annan’s plan for political transition in Syria.
Annan “has developed his own very concrete road map for political transition” from the Assad regime, Clinton said at a news conference at the start of her three-country European tour. “We believe it embodies the principles needed for any political transition in Syria that could lead to a peaceful, democratic and representative outcome reflecting the will of the Syrian people,” she was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. Clinton said she has “great hope” the meeting can be “a turning point in the very tragic circumstances affecting the Syrian people at this time.”