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U.S. Delegate to Attend Syria Talks in Astana | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Masimov (R) talks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting in Astana, May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Pool

The United States officially announced that it will not send a comprehensive delegation from Washington to attend Syrian peace talks in the Kazakh capital. Current transition of power in the U.S has taken up top priority of the nation’s efforts.

The State Department’s acting spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, would attend the Jan. 23 Russian-led talks as an observer.

“We welcome and appreciate Kazakhstan’s invitation to participate as an observer,” Toner said in a statement, “Given our presidential inauguration and the immediate demands of the transition, a delegation from Washington will not be attending the Astana conference.”

Toner said the U.S. was committed to a political resolution to the Syrian crisis through a Syrian-owned process.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday he hoped the new administration of President Donald Trump would send a Middle East expert to the talks.

With Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, not expected to get a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote before Monday, the new administration asked the State Department’s No. 3 official, Tom Shannon, to stay on.

U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura has said he intends to convene separate peace talks in Geneva on Feb. 8. The U.N.-backed talks have been held intermittently. Russia says the Kazakh talks would complement, rather than compete with, the U.N. talks.

The Moscow-led effort to revive diplomacy, without the participation of the United States, has emerged with Syrian authoritarian Bashar al-Assad buoyed by the defeat of rebels in Aleppo, and as ties thaw between Russia and Turkey, long one of the rebels’ main backers.

Air strikes and clashes, particularly near the Syrian capital Damascus, have tarnished a shaky ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey since it began two weeks ago, and the warring sides have accused each other of violations.