WASHINGTON: It’s not appropriate for Iran to join the talks on Syria’s future, it’s still considered “state sponsor of terrorism,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.

In comments posted on the front page of the US State Department’s official website, Secretary Kerry said that so far no member of a US-led coalition for fighting extremists in Syria has suggested including Iran in the upcoming talks in Paris.

“It would not be appropriate, given the many other issues that are on the table with respect to their (Iran’s) engagement in Syria and elsewhere,” he said.

Further explain the US position on this issue, Secretary Kerry that Iran had been deeply involved in Syria and Iranian forces were still operating there.

Another concern was that Iran was still “a state sponsor of terror in various places,” he added.

Instead of inviting Iran to the Paris conference, Secretary Kerry suggested approaching it “in a proper way” and through a process that was acceptable to other members of the coalition as well.

Secretary Kerry is currently touring the Middle East to gather support for US President Barack Obama’s plan to launch a joint military operation against the militants of the Islamic State group.

On Thursday, Secretary Kerry concluded a pact with key Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq, committing them to back the planned offensive.

On Friday, he visited Turkey to secure its support for the US plan. Both Turkey and Iran were not invited to the meeting in Jeddah this week where the anti-militant coalition was formed.

Turkey has agreed to provide humanitarian support to those fighting the militant but is reluctant to join a military offensive as it fears that this may harm a large number of Turkish hostages the militants are holding.

Turkey has the second-largest armed forces in the Nato military alliance after the United States and hosts a major US Air Force base at Incirlik in its south.

Secretary Kerry said it was too early to say publicly what individual countries were prepared to do in a broad front to cut off funds to the militants, encourage local opposition and provide humanitarian aid.

The top US diplomat, who was in Cairo on Saturday, said that building a coalition would take time. But he also said he was confident that he will ultimately put together “a broad-based coalition with Arab nations, European nations, the United States, others.”

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2014

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