No Sign of Agreement on Syrian Dialogue Participants

No Sign of Agreement on  Syrian Dialogue Participants            No Sign of Agreement on  Syrian Dialogue Participants

Iran has seen no sign of agreement on which groups fighting in Syria should be considered terrorists for exclusion from a political process negotiated in the second round of international Syria talks last month, the foreign minister said hours ahead of the third round of diplomacy on Friday in New York.

A peace plan agreed on November 14 in Vienna to resolve the Syrian crisis outlined a roadmap leading to "free and fair elections" in two years, calling for the Syrian government and opposition to come together at the negotiation table by a Jan. 1 target date, ISNA reported.

The 20 participants also agreed to present their own list of groups and individuals for "possible determination as terrorists".

Asked to comment on the outlook of the talks, Mohammad Javad Zarif said, "In the first and second meetings, we launched a process that required terrorist groups be sorted from opposition groups … Agreement on the matter still seems lacking.

"We have not yet seen a list we can agree upon [distinguishing between] the Syrian opposition and terrorist groups."

Zarif noted that "serious work" is needed for the peace initiative to come to fruition.

"Card-carrying members of Al-Qaeda do not satisfy the conditions that we set for members of the opposition," Zarif said, ruling out any affiliates of the extremist group.

"The opposition should be serious and it should be inclusive."

  Impediment to Peace

The top diplomat also talked to reporters upon arrival in New York on Thursday, blaming the protracted Syria conflict on preconditions set by some attendees in the talks.

The roadmap plan made no mention of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's future, but it has been a major contentious issue between his allies and opponents in Vienna meetings.

Western powers, Saudi Arabia and Turkey demand that Assad be denied a role in Syria's future, while Iran and Russia insist it is up to the Syrian people to decide.

"Regrettably, the preconditions set by some powers have prolonged the war and bloodshed in the country for the past four years," Zarif said.

"We want such demands to be dropped, the ceasefire [provided for in the plan] be established and differences be settled through diplomacy and dialogue between Syrian groups with a view to creating a Syrian national unity government."

Russia and the United States are leading the talks, but Russia's ambassador to the UN told reporters that he sees attempts to "undercut" the communiqués that have been agreed upon in the Syria discussions so far, the AP reported.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin did not give details.

  Gesture of Unity

Diplomats said the five permanent UN Security Council members, which include Russia and the United States, had not yet reached agreement on a draft resolution on Thursday evening that the council is expected to adopt just after Friday's talks endorsing the process.

"I'm not sure it's going to happen," Churkin said of the resolution, which has been described as a rare gesture of unity in a UN Security Council bitterly divided on Syria. By contrast, British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the draft was "in good shape".

Before the Syria conference, Zarif held talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his German and Chinese counterparts Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Wang Yi to discuss progress toward the implementation of the July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.