BEIRUT

Middle East

Iran's Zarif to visit Syria ahead of peace talks

TEHRAN: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to travel to Tehran ally Damascus in the next few days, media reported Sunday, amid preparations for a Syria peace conference.

Zarif was Sunday in Lebanon, which neighbours war-torn Syria, and said that his country is not seeking an invitation at all costs to the peace conference to be held in Switzerland on January 22.

He is visiting Lebanon as part of a regional tour that will also take him to Iraq, Jordan and Syria, Iran's official Al-Alam Arabic-language television said, without giving further details.

"If we receive an invitation without any preconditions, we will participate in the 'Geneva 2' peace conference, but we won't act in order to receive an invitation," Zarif said in Beirut.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon last week sent invitations to 30 countries to attend the conference, but did not include Iran, the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to meet on Monday in a bid to decide Iran's role in ending the nearly three-year conflict.

Speaking in the Lebanese capital on Sunday, Zarif also said Iran would "welcome any official meeting" with Saudi Arabia, which supports opponents of Assad in the Syrian civil war.

"We try to have brotherly ties with this country... because we believe that if our relationships strengthen, it will have a positive effect on the stability, security and peace in the entire region."

The minister also welcomed Lebanon's efforts to stop "the main terrorist responsible" for a bomb attack outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed 25 people on November 19.

Majid al-Majid, a Saudi who was suspected to be the head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades which claimed the attack, died in Lebanese custody this month.

The embassy attack came amid rising tensions in Lebanon over the role of the Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah in the war in neighbouring Syria.

 
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Summary

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to travel to Tehran ally Damascus in the next few days, media reported Sunday, amid preparations for a Syria peace conference.

Zarif was Sunday in Lebanon, which neighbours war-torn Syria, and said that his country is not seeking an invitation at all costs to the peace conference to be held in Switzerland on January 22 .

UN chief Ban Ki-moon last week sent invitations to 30 countries to attend the conference, but did not include Iran, the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.


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