(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran hosted a meeting Sunday described by Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi as "a major step to move out of the current crisis in Syria."
The so-called "National Syrian Dialogue Meeting" featured an estimated 200 representatives that included members from the central government in Damascus as well as Syrian ethnic groups, minorities and opposition groups.
Using the slogan "Violence No, Democracy Yes," Iranian officials said the main goal of the talks in Tehran was to achieve a peaceful settlement to the 20-month-long conflict that has cost 35,000 lives.
While no one expected a full turnaround, given that violence continues on the upswing in Syria, the general hope was that the meeting would at least pave the way toward a negotiated end to the crisis that threatens to spill over into the region.
Naturally, Iran also showed its partisanship due to close ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Its regime said the meeting was meant as a "strong response to the plans entailing foreign intervention" -- a knock against the U.S. and the West, which is calling for al-Assad to step down.
Iran also faulted the actions of "irresponsible armed groups in the Arab state which have targeted the lives of the innocent and Syria's old civilization."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio