WASHINGTON - The United States today welcomed U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's decision to rescind his invitation to Iran to attend an international conference on Syria this week, saying it hoped the move would refocus attention on the goals of the meeting.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. hopes "all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a political transition. Her statement was released soon after the U.N. announced it had withdrawn the invitation issued to Iran on Sunday and the main western-backed Syrian opposition group dropped its threat to boycott the conference. Secretary of State John Kerry is to attend the conference.
Secretary of State John Kerry is to attend the conference, which is actually being held in the Swiss town of Montreux, on Wednesday.
U.S. officials said earlier today that they expected the United Nations would reevaluate the invitation and rescind it unless Iran fully and publicly endorsed the aim of the meeting, which is to begin to prepare a transitional government for Syria that would pave the way for democratic elections there. That goal was outlined in 2012 in the so-called "Geneva Communique," to which the U.S. and others said all conference participants must embrace. Iran had refused to do so, although the U.N. said Ban had received assurances from Tehran that it would.
Public statements from Iran after Ban issued the invitation fell "well short" of what was required, the U.S. officials said.
The officials restated U.S. complaints about Iran's role in Syria's civil war, including arming Assad's forces and sending fighters to assist his side.
They said Iran's actions continued to exacerbate sectarian tensions and the deteriorating situation on the ground rather than easing them.