United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Geneva ahead of peace talks on Syria.
On Monday he withdrew a last-minute invitation for Iran to attend, after the Syrian opposition threatened to boycott the talks.
The reversal of the invitation was widely seen as a diplomatic fiasco, undermining talks that are already given little chance of success.
Iran is regarded as the main sponsor of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he saw Iran’s absence as a “mistake” but not a catastrophe.
“Those who demanded to withdraw an invitation to Iran are the ones who insist that the Geneva Communique should end in the regime change. It is just an interpretation, and a dishonest interpretation of what was agreed in Geneva on June 30, 2012. But now it turns out that those who dishonestly interpret the Geneva Communique, and in a way make the regime change a preliminary condition, are widely represented among the invited to the Geneva peace conference,” Lavrov said.
Bashar al-Assad met with the official Syrian delegation representing the country at the Geneva II talks and reportedly instructed them to preserve Syria’s sovereignty and refuse any foreign interventions.
The peace conference, due to begin on Wednesday, is the biggest diplomatic effort to end the three-year conflict.