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Bigger US Presence in Syria Dims Settlement Prospects
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Bigger US Presence in Syria Dims Settlement Prospects

A lawmaker said the deployment of more US forces to war-ravaged Syria is detrimental to the process of settling the six-year-old crisis in the Arab country, as a new round of Syria talks is set to begin in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Speaking to ICANA on Saturday, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini was referring to a Thursday Washington Post report citing unnamed US officials as saying that the administration of Donald Trump has deployed several hundred US Marine forces to northern Syria.

The announced goal of the first deployment of regular US military personnel into Syria was helping prepare Syrian Democratic Forces, a mainly-Kurdish militia, for the looming fight for Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, which is to begin in the coming weeks.

Earlier, several hundred US Special Operations troops were in Syria for months on an advisory mission.

The new plan also includes more Special Operations troops and US attack helicopters in Syria.

The unprecedented escalation of US involvement in the Syrian conflict may be in connection with a January announcement by Trump that the US will create safe zones in Syria to stem the flow of refugees from Syria into other countries.

At the time, Trump did not elaborate what specific measures he would authorize.

Hosseini said the current US policy on Syria of creating safe zones would dim the prospects of finding a political solution. He said there are mainly two groups of players in the conflict, each pursuing its own objectives.

"On the one hand, some countries such as the US and the Israeli regime are after a military solution and are arming terrorists. On the other, the second group comprising Iran, Russia and Syria seek political settlement and negotiation to put an end to the crisis," he said.

Syria has been the scene of heavy armed clashes since 2011, when foreign-backed militants started their struggle to bring down the Syrian government.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands dead and displaced millions.

Iran and Russia are supporters of the Syrian government in its anti-terror drive.

The news of US deployment came ahead of the third round of talks on Syria settlement in Astana scheduled for March 14-15. It begins with preliminary consultations on Tuesday and the plenary meeting on Wednesday.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that negotiations would bring together delegations from Russia, Turkey and Iran alongside representatives from the United Nations, United States and Jordan.

It said delegations of the Syrian government and armed opposition are expected to confirm their participation in the meeting. The two previous rounds of high-level international talks were held on January 23-24 and February 15-16, while a technical meeting of experts took place on February 6.

In those meetings, Russia, Turkey and Iran, organizers of the talks, agreed on protecting a ceasefire started on Dec. 30 by establishing a joint group on monitoring it.

The ceasefire came after Syrian troops managed to liberate Aleppo, the second biggest Syrian city, crushing last remaining hopes of militants to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The last and fourth round of separate UN-brokered Geneva talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups was held late last month. The UN envoy Staffan de Mistura announced on Wednesday that he plans to start the fifth round of Geneva talks on March 23.

 

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