The Russian, United States, Saudi Arabian and Turkish Foreign ministers will hold a second round of Syria peace talks in less than a week in Vienna Thursday, a Russian diplomatic source said Wednesday.
Following the four-way meeting at 1800 GMT Thursday the quartet could be joined for more talks Friday by their counterparts from Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon “if these countries reply positively” to an invitation from Washington, the source said.
The U.S. said Tuesday that it expected a “genuine multilateral invitation” to be made to Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to join the talks, despite earlier opposition from Washington and Riyadh.
U.S. officials would not say which power would pass the invitation to Tehran and did not know if Iran would accept, but they said it would be welcome to attend if it did.
Friday’s talks in Vienna are seen as a way to end Syria’s civil war by creating an interim unity regime and paving the way for Assad’s exit.
A meeting last Friday in the Austrian capital between the top envoys from the four countries ended without a major breakthrough, as serious divisions remain over when or if Assad should go.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria last month to help forces loyal to Assad battle what it says are Islamic State and other “terrorist” groups.
The U.S. and its allies involved in a bombing campaign against Islamic State insist Moscow is mainly targeting moderate groups fighting the Damascus regime.
Iran accepted the invitation for Syria talks
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will join talks in Vienna this week , a top official in Tehran told state television on Wednesday.
“We have reviewed the invitation, and it was decided that the foreign minister would attend the talks,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, without disclosing when he would arrive or who sent the invitation.
Washington had actively opposed Iran participating in two earlier, months-long mediation attempts but recently spoke of the possibility of Iran joining future talks.
It offered Tehran a seat after days of behind-the-scenes negotiation, particularly with its regional rival Saudi Arabia, according to officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.