|Clockwise from top, Iran's Ali Khamenei, Fabius, Lavrov and Kerry|
The United States is said today to have approved the participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Geneva-2 on Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Russian and French counterparts in Paris on Monday ahead of the expected international conference on Syria.
Kerry and Sergei Lavrov will meet "to continue discussions from their meeting just a few weeks ago in Russia, and provide updates as they plan ahead for the international conference on Syria," a State Department official said in a statement Friday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will also take part in what a Western diplomat said would be a "working dinner" in a restaurant in the French capital.
Russia said on Friday the Damascus regime had agreed "in principle" to participate in international talks that have been dubbed Geneva-2.
The first Geneva meeting, in June 2012, ended in a broad agreement aimed at forming a transition government in Syria.
But the deal was never implemented because it left open the key question of whether President Bashar al-Assad could be part of the transitional government.
Elie Chalhoub, co-founder and managing editor of al-Akhbar daily, which is Iran-Assad-Hezbollah’s mouthpiece in Lebanon, gives this account of Iran joining Geneva-2:
What is noteworthy about the Geneva-2 brouhaha is Iran’s insouciant attitude toward the United States.
Tehran takes her participation in Geneva-2 with much insouciance after receiving word from Russia saying: “We’ve been officially notified that the United States has opted to change its position on Syria.”
Sources in Tehran say the message to Iranian officials came in a briefing by Lavrov on his May 7 meeting with Kerry in Moscow.
According to the note, Kerry told his Russian host: “You have to realize the United States is not like a motorbike, which can make a full 180-degree turnaround from a dead stop. The United States being more like a tractor and a trailer, it can travel through small neighborhoods and narrow streets, perhaps knocking a few structures and stationary cars on the way. But it ultimately makes the u-turn.”
Proof of the message’s authenticity is that the United States has approved Iran’s participation in Geneva-2.
In her column today for Beirut’s independent daily an-Nahar, political analyst Rosanna Boumounsef writes in part:
Lebanese officials have zero hope of Geneva-2 ending the Syria war. They talk from their familiarity with the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, which plunged the country in internal, regional and international conflicts lasting 15 years. What started as a Christian-Palestinian incident ended as a Christian-Christian war with Arab, international, Israeli and Iranian players joining in-between.
Saying it is a dead duck, the officials compare Geneva-2 on Syria to the fruitless meetings of Lebanese leaders in Geneva and Lausanne 30 years ago.
(In 1983, a meeting in Geneva of representatives from the major Lebanese factions for a national dialogue conference achieved little progress. They were able to agree on only one issue, the Arab identity of Lebanon. When the representatives reconvened in Lausanne in 1984, they were unable to make any further progress.)
The Lebanese civil war did not end before the leaders approved and signed the 1989 Taef Agreement.
Some of the officials also cite the example of peace talks to end the Vietnam War.
The United States and Hanoi agreed to enter into preliminary peace talks in Paris in 1968. However, almost as soon as the talks were started, they stalled. When peace talks resumed in Paris on January 8, 1973, an accord was reached swiftly. The peace agreement was formally signed on January 27, 1973.