World Bulletin / News Desk
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called on Thursday for "serious and inclusive" talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, opening a meeting of friendly nations called by Tehran as it seeks to exert its influence over the conflict.
More than 25 nations were present at the conference but significantly none of them back the Syrian opposition or have called for President Bashar al-Assad to leave power.
State television broadcast the opening statement of the talks, which Salehi said were attended by delegations from Russia, China, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, India, among others.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran firmly believes that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through serious and inclusive talks between the government and opposition groups that enjoy popular support in Syria," Salehi said at the start of a conference in Tehran to discuss the unrest.
In the speech broadcast live on Iranian television, Salehi said that Iran "rejects any foreign and military intervention in Syrian and backs and supports U.N. efforts to resolve the crisis".
The Syrian government has said it is ready for dialogue but the opposition says Assad must step down as a precursor to any negotiations. Continued hostilities in Aleppo, where the Syrian military is bombarding rebel fighters, make talks unlikely in the near future.
Also present at the Tehran meeting was the United Nations resident coordinator to Tehran, Consuelo Vidal-Bruce, who read out a statement from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"Both the government and the opposition continued to rely on weapons," the translated statement read, and such actions would have "tragic consequences for the Syrian people".
All parties had a common responsibility to "end the violence and the killing of civilians," the Iranian student news agency reported.
In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Salehi warned there would be catastrophic consequences if Assad fell from power.
"Syrian society is a beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, faiths and cultures, and it will be smashed to pieces should President Bashar al-Assad abruptly fall," it read.
Salehi said Iran sought a solution that was in everyone's interest.
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