Russia Says Iran Must Be Invited to Syria Peace Conference

Chief diplomats from the UN veto powers and Syria's neighboring countries gather in Geneva to discuss how to bring the Syrian regime and the opposition to the negotiating table.

Russia said on Tuesday Iran must be invited to a proposed peace conference on Syria, reiterating its stance after the main Syrian opposition leader said his coalition would not attend if Iran took part.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also criticized Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba's demand for a clear time frame for President Bashar Assad to leave power, saying there should be no preconditions for the "Geneva 2" peace talks.

"All those with influence on the situation must certainly be invited - this includes not only Arab countries but also Iran," Lavrov told a news conference when asked about Jarba's statement.

Two of Lavrov's deputies were due to meet U.S. diplomats and UN-Arab League Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Tuesday in Geneva to discuss efforts to convene the long-delayed conference first proposed by the United States and Russia in May.

Envoys from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Arab League would also take part, a UN spokeswoman said.

It was unclear if a date for the planned peace talks in Geneva would be set ahead of a meeting by the opposition Syrian National Coalition on Saturday in Istanbul to decide whether to even attend.

The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful anti-government protests in 2011, has killed more than 100,000 people, according to UN estimates.