Iran should be part of the solution to the Syria crisis, international mediator Kofi Annan said on Friday, a week before a planned crisis meeting that is in doubt because of Western objections to the Islamic Republic's participation.
Annan said that he wanted states with influence on both sides of the conflict to be involved in the peace process and said some countries had taken national initiatives that risked unleashing "destructive competition."
"It is time for countries of influence to raise the level of pressure on parties on the ground and to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop the killing and start talking," Annan, the UN-Arab League joint envoy, told a news conference.
"The longer we wait, the darker Syria's future becomes," he warned.
The former UN secretary-general, asked whether Iran would take part in the talks, tentatively expected to be held in Geneva on June 30, replied: "We are discussing the composition and other aspects of the meeting. But I have made it quite clear that I believe Iran should be part of the solution."
Iran, a powerful ally and neighbor of Syria, is the subject of a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Russia, which differ not only on the way forward on Syria but also on Iran's nuclear program.
The United States and the European Union have introduced tight sanctions on Iranian oil to pressure it to halt its nuclear work, which they fear is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Annan's peace plan for Syria has been in doubt since an April 12 ceasefire deadline failed to stop the fighting, which has escalated to the point that a 300-strong UN observer mission was forced to retreat to its bases last Saturday.
Major-General Robert Mood, the observer mission's commander who was speaking alongside Annan, said there were a lot of people involved in the conflict who were trying to buy time and not in a rush to see an end to the fighting.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now