In the first high-level Syria peace talks to include Iran, Tehran proposes a six-month transition plan followed by elections, in what seems to be a concession from Syria's key ally that President Bashar al Assad need not remain in power. Mana Rabiee reports.
In Vienna, foreign ministers from nearly a dozen countries are meeting for the first high-level Syria peace talks that include Iran -- a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It comes four weeks after Russian air strikes in support of Assad tipped the balance of power on the battlefield in his favor... and after Washington dropped its objections to having Tehran join the peace conference. British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond: (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER, PHILIP HAMMOND, SAYING: "We are gathered here this morning to see if there is any scope of bridging the gap that exists between the Russian, Iranian position on the one hand, and most of the rest of the countries represented on the other." And now an apparent concession from Iran. It's proposing a six-month transition period in Syria followed by elections to decide Assad's fate. It's tantamount to Tehran dropping its insistence that Assad remain in power… and it could provide the basis for future diplomacy over Syria. That's because all previous efforts to find a diplomatic solution have collapsed .... largely over the insistence of the United States, European powers, Arab states and Turkey that Assad agrees to leave power. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, SAYING: "I am hopeful. I don't call it optimism. I am hopeful that we can find a way forward. It is very difficult. We will see what happens." But Iran's proposal would require Assad's opponents to make a fundamental concession…. allowing an election in which the very man they've been fighting to topple could stand. It's an idea a Syrian opposition figure and a rebel commander on Friday dismissed as "mad".