Iran has said it will join talks in Vienna later this week seeking a political solution to Syria's civil war. An ally of Russia in the conflict, Iran has aimed to uphold al-Assad's regime.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad will join his counterparts from the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, Saudi Arabia in a second round of talks on the Syrian conflict on Friday.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham confirmed the decision on Wednesday, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
This will mark the first time that Tehran attends an international conference on the civil war. The Kremlin called on Wednesday for "a widening of the dialogue."
Iranian participation in the talks has raised questions about the likelihood of an end to the civil war, with the US and EU leaders calling for Assad's departure as a precondition for peace.
An ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the country has supplied "military advisors" to the Assad regime in its fight against the opposition. Moreover, it, along with Assad-ally Russia, has been accused by opposition fighters of deliberately targeting them.
More than 200,000 have been killed in Syria since fighting broke in March 2011. Since then, millions have been forced to flee into neighboring countries.
The growing power of the barbaric "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq, plus the strain of hundreds of thousands of refugees on European nations has heightened the sense of urgency in bringing the four-year-long conflict to an end.
A 'sign of reason'
The US on Tuesday expressed willingness for the first time to involve Iran in peace talks - its "first sign of reason" according to IRNA.
"An invitation to Iran to participate, I think Iranian leaders can take to mean that it's a genuine multilateral invitation," US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday. US Secretary of State John Kerry is to attend the talks.
Iran has urged a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni has forbidden negations with the U.S. outside of the nuclear issue.
The Syrian National Coalition expressed worry that Iran's participation will "complicate" the talks and "obstruct a political solution."
jtm/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)