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Sat Jul 6, 2013 2:25AM
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov (file photo)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov (file photo)

A high-ranking Russian official says Moscow is strongly opposed to a repetition of the Libya scenario in Syria and believes that representatives of all Syrian parties, as well as neighboring countries and Iran, should attend the upcoming Geneva talks on the Syrian crisis. In an exclusive interview with the Arabic-language network Rusiya al-Yaum on Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Moscow thinks that all the neighboring countries of Syria -- such as Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and of course Iran, which has its own weight -- are directly connected to developments in Syria and can influence them. He went on to say that Iran’s regional role is no secret to anyone, but some US allies are denying the importance of Iran for resolving the Syrian conflict and are opposed to inviting Tehran to the Geneva 2 conference, claiming that Iran's participation would not be beneficial. Russia strongly disagrees with such allegations and believes all influential regional countries -- including Iran -- must attend the Geneva 2 talks so that a political solution can be found, Gatilov said. On June 5, the Russian Foreign Ministry renewed Moscow’s call for Iran to be invited to the Geneva 2 talks. “This is a matter of principle because the composition of the conference should be balanced,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said. Bogdanov acknowledged Washington’s opposition to inviting Iran to the peace conference but insisted that Iran’s absence in the Geneva 1 talks last summer "was a mistake and it should not be repeated." On May 28, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized the necessity of Iran’s attendance at the upcoming talks in Geneva. “The issue of Iran is key for us. Iran, without question, is one of the most important nations,” he said. The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of government forces, have been killed. Damascus says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals. The Syrian government says the West and its regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants. In addition, several international human rights organizations say the militants operating in Syria have committed war crimes. MP/HGL
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