TEHRAN: A delegation of former world leaders from the so-called Elders group on Monday called for an end to Syria's "nightmare" during a rare visit to Iran, a key regime ally.
"All of us, including our Iranian hosts, are deeply concerned about the tragic situation in Syria today. We must all do our best to help reduce suffering ... and put an end to the nightmare of Syrian people," former UN chief and Syria envoy Kofi Annan said after a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran is a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, which has been battling rebels for nearly three years in a civil war that has claimed an estimated 130,000 lives and displaced millions of people.
Tehran was excluded from peace talks currently being held in Switzerland over its refusal to back calls for a transitional government.
Annan arrived in Iran on Sunday with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, South African Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and Mexican ex-president Ernesto Zedillo.
The Elders group was formed in 2007 and is made up of 12 former global leaders who "promote peace, justice and human rights," according to its website.
Iran has sought to improve relations with Western countries following last year's election of President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate, and clinched a landmark nuclear accord with world powers in November.
The West and Israel have long suspected Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons alongside its civilian atomic programme, charges denied by Tehran.
In a statement released on Saturday the Elders hailed "recent positive developments as a historic and strategic opportunity to end decades of animosity between Iran and the international community."
During the visit, the Elders "will exchange ideas with the Iranian leadership about peaceful ways of addressing conflict and healing sectarian divisions in the region."