Russia and Iran criticized the U.N chief's decision to withdraw Tehran's invitation to join this week's peace conference on Syria, as delegates began to arrive in Switzerland on Tuesday for the long-awaited talks.
A last-minute U.N invitation for Iran to participate in the so-called Geneva conference threw the entire meeting into doubt, forcing U.N chief "Ban Ki-moon" to rescind his offer late Monday under intense U.S pressure after Syria's main Western-backed opposition group threatened to boycott.
After Ban withdrew the invitation, the opposition coalition said it would attend the talks aimed at ending Syria's crippling three-year crisis.
That cleared the way for the conference to open Wednesday as planned in the Swiss resort city of Montreux, with high-ranking delegations from the United States, Russia and close to 40 other countries attending. Face-to-face negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents are to start Friday in Geneva.
But Russia and Iran criticized the U.N over the decision to exclude Tehran.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister "Sergey Lavrov" said Ban's decision to rescind Iran's invitation was a mistake, but that Moscow would try to make the negotiations work.
Lavrov said at a news conference that "there is no catastrophe, we will push for a dialogue between the Syrian parties without any preconditions".
At the same time, Lavrov took a jab at Ban, saying his decision on Iran "hasn't helped strengthen the U.N authority," and that recalling the offer looked "unseemly".
The controversy over Iran's participation in the talks reflected deep differences over Syria between the United States and Russia.
Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's stance that the presence of Iran was essential for the success of the talks.
In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Ban's diplomatic about-face.
"From our point of view, the withdrawal is deplorable", ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, adding that the U.Nchief only did so under immense pressure.
Afkham said that Iran expects Ban Ki-moon will explain the "real reasons" for withdrawing the invitation.