|Opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun calls on rebels in northern Syria (Photos credit)|
Russia and Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s pet idea of an international meeting on Syria in Geneva on Saturday remains up in the air at this writing.
The proposal is not flying yet because of disagreements over composition of the “contact-cum-action group” for Syria, its agenda and the meeting’s proposed June 30 date.
Russia and Annan want Iran at the table alongside other global and regional players in Syria.
The U.S. doesn’t “think that Iran has a place at the table” because it is “aiding and abetting the Assad regime on the ground in the murdering of its own people,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday at a press briefing in Washington. She said Washington and Annan “continue to work on what this conference might look like and how, if we go forward with it, whether it – if it’s at the end of the week or sometime thereafter, we can ensure that it truly makes progress in supporting the Annan plan and specifically in supporting a peaceful democratic transition in Syria.”
The U.S. and Joint Special Envoy Annan want the group to commit to endorse a peaceful democratic transition in Syria.
Russia has opposed the idea that other countries dictate a political transition, insisting it is a decision for the Syrians themselves.
CNN’s Jill Dougherty says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Annan from her plane en route to a three-nation tour of Finland, Latvia and Russia. Annan is continuing his consultations, a senior State Department official told reporters aboard the plane.
"For us, the key thing is that the participants in the meeting agree on the way forward including political transition in Syria. I think if Kofi Annan can get the proposed participants to agree on such a plan for political transition, then there will be a meeting. But that's what we need to find out before we go to any meeting," the official said.
"If other proposed participants agree to that, then the secretary will go to the meeting and we'll try to advance it in that way," the official added. "What it can't be is just another round of dialogue for dialogue's sake with the regime. And that's our view. And I think, frankly, it's the view of a very large number of members of the international community."
While in St. Petersburg this week, Clinton is expected to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the topic of Syria will be on their agenda, the official said.
Annan's deputy, Nasser al-Kidwa, told the UN Security Council behind closed doors that Annan is nearing a decision on whether or not to host the meeting in Geneva.
"We are awaiting clarity today on whether there is sufficient substantive agreement as well as consensus on the scope of participation before the envoy decides whether the meeting should proceed on the 30th as planned," al-Kidwa told the 15-nation council, according to a copy of his statement quoted by Colum Lynch on Turtle Bay.
Al-Kidwa outlined the basic elements of the plan to the full council in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. He said it would include agreement on "guidelines and principles for a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," read a copy of his confidential statement, according to Lynch.
Leading Lebanese political analyst Sarkis Naoum, writing for the Beirut daily an-Nahar on Tuesday, sees little chance of Iran finding its way to the “contact-cum-action group” table unless it decides to give the nod to a political transition. One conceivable transition would involve Assad stepping aside and empowering his vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, to head a tripartite coalition government. The said government would prepare for free and democratic elections. The regime would choose one-third of its members, another third would represent the home-based opposition while the overseas opposition would name the last third.