US Attendance as Observer in Astana Talks Possible

US Attendance as Observer in Astana Talks PossibleUS Attendance as Observer in Astana Talks Possible

A high-ranking official said the US will certainly play no role in overseeing next week's peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana between the Syrian government and opposition groups, although he did not rule out the possibility of US attendance as an observer.

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani made the statement on Wednesday, echoing the words of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who said on Tuesday that Tehran opposes the participation of the US in the latest diplomatic efforts to help end the nearly six-year-old conflict in the Arab country, IRNA reported.

Shamkhani said Iran's opposition to any US role in the talks is due to Washington's "[long] record of bad promises and its failure to protect [previous] ceasefires and pave the way for negotiations".

"There are no reasons for US participation in steering the current political initiatives [to settle] the Syrian conflict," he said.

The Astana talks are to be held in the wake of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria mediated by Russia, Turkey and Iran, which took effect at midnight of December 30 and was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on December 31.

The truce came after a deal brokered by the three countries to evacuate militants from Aleppo late last month, which handed the Syrian troops a major victory in liberating the second biggest Syrian city, and a December 20 meeting between the foreign ministers of the three countries in Moscow, in which the trio agreed on principles any settlement of the Syria crisis should adhere to.

Zarif's remarks came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday Turkey and Russia had decided to invite the United States to the Astana discussions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday he thought it was right to invite the administration of Donald Trump, due to become US president on Friday.

Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi told AFP on Wednesday that "at this stage, we must keep the tripartite setup. Any enlargement could increase the risk of failure".

"Talks are ongoing between Iran, Russia and Turkey on who will attend," Qasemi said, and other countries could be included in later stages after successful "first steps".

The Astana talks mark the first time since the conflict began in 2011 that the US has not been at the center of diplomacy on Syria.


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