Trying to continue its balancing act between Iran and the West, India has sent a low-level diplomat to Iran to attend a conference on Syria.
Iran, which suddenly announced the conference two days before, is making a bid to take over the role of brokering peace in its Arab ally, replacing
Kofi Annan who resigned as the UN-Arab envoy in the crisis.
But participation in the meeting was looking thin, with only three governments of the 29 states that attended sending foreign ministers. India sent ambassadorial or joint secretary S Sahare. Even China and Russia, which have strongly supported Syria at the UN, were present only at the ambassadorial level.
Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the meeting by calling for “national dialogue between the opposition and the Syrian government to establish calm and security,” according to state television.
He added Iran was prepared to host any such dialogue.
Salehi said Iran was opposed to “any foreign interference and military intervention in resolving the Syrian crisis” and supported efforts by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Excluded from the Tehran meeting were Western and Gulf Arab nations that Iran has accused of giving military backing to the near 17-month insurgency seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Only five Arab countries showed up for the conference and Turkey too did not attend.
Indian sources said that representation was needed to get a sense of policy on Syria, especially from Tehran’s perspective.