BEIRUT: Lebanon will not attend a meeting in Tehran this week to discuss the crisis in Syria due to its disassociation policy regarding the conflict, ministerial sources said Tuesday.
“Lebanon has informed Iran that it will not participate in a conference on Syria in line with its disassociation policy,” a ministerial source told The Daily Star.
The source said that Lebanon’s response to the Iranian invitation had been relayed to Tehran through diplomatic channels by Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.
Iran, a staunch supporter of the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, has sent invitations for a conference to be held in Tehran Thursday to some 30 countries, including those interested in supporting U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan to end 17 months of deadly conflict between regime and rebel forces.
However, Annan – frustrated by the escalating civil war and numbers of civilians dead – announced last week that he will quit his high-profile role as special envoy to the country at the end of the month.
His reasons for departureamounted to scathing criticism of world powers’ failure to unite to stop the chaos in the Arab state.
Al-Liwaa newspaper quoted Mansour as telling Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, that “the decision of President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati is not to participate [in the Tehran conference] based on the disassociation policy that has been adopted by Lebanon” on the Syrian uprising.
Jalili visited Beirut Monday and held talks with Sleiman, Mikati, Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah on bilateral relations and developments in the region, particularly the turmoil in Syria.
Jalili flew Tuesday to Syria, where he assured Assad of Iran’s continued support for his regime, which is facing an armed rebellion, as well as high-ranking defections from the government and military ranks.
“Iran will not allow the axis of resistance, of which it considers Syria to be an essential part, to be broken in any way,” Syrian state television quoted Jalili as telling Assad.
The “axis of resistance” refers to Iran’s alliance with Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006, with Tehran and Damascus support.
Amir Abdollahian, an Iranian deputy foreign minister in charge of Arab affairs, said Iran will host a ministerial meeting Thursday for countries having a “realistic position” on the Syrian crisis.
He renewed Iran’s position for dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition groups to end the bloody conflict.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that a total halt to the violence, and national dialogue are the solution to controlling the crisis in Syria and to that end Iran is organizing this meeting,” he said.
While Lebanon will stay away from Thursday’s meeting on Syria, it will attend the Non-Aligned States’ Conference to be held in Tehran at the end of August. In his talks with Lebanese leaders, Jalili also discussed Iran’s preparations to host this conference.
Sources at Baabda Palace said Sleiman had promised Jalili that he would head Lebanon’s delegation to the Non-Aligned States’ Conference.
“But Lebanon will not participate in any conference in Tehran to discuss the Syrian crisis,” a Baabda source reiterated to The Daily Star.
Lebanon has not attended any meetings of the Friends of Syria group that brings together representatives from mainly Arab and Western states that support the Syrian opposition.
While fueding March 8 and March 14 coalitions are sharply divided over the Syrian crisis, the turmoil in the neighboring country has spilled over into Lebanon in series of deadly border incidents in recent months.