Beirut- The new U.S. administration is busy arranging its papers for the Geneva talks expected on Feb. 8, after Washington failed to play a role in the upcoming Astana talks that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have planned for between Syria’s Bashar Assad regime and opposition factions.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a clarification regarding conflicting information on an invitation sent to Washington to participate in the talks expected in the Kazakh capital on Jan. 23. The FM confirmed sending the letter.
However, diplomats and Syrian opposition officials considered Moscow’s move an attempt to limit the U.S. role in the Astana talks given that Washington has been the main player in attempts to resolve the Syrian conflict.
On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will take the oath of office and be sworn in as the new U.S. president. Three days later, the Astana talks are scheduled to kick off, making it difficult for Washington to participate as an active player.
Therefore, it is more probable that Washington would prepare for the Geneva talks.
According to Syrian opposition sources, “if Trump’s administration decides to send representatives to Kazakhstan, there is no doubt they would only be listeners … particularly that the new administration has not yet drawn a clear policy concerning the Syrian crisis.”
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that whether the U.S. decides to participate or not would help draw a clear image concerning the new administration’s policy regarding the Syrian file.
Member of the Syrian Coalition Mohammed Maktabi said the hesitant U.S. position that characterized the policy of the Obama term, in addition to the limited role that the U.S. played during the bilateral talks held between Washington and Moscow on Syria, have all limited the role of the U.S., which appeared as a small state or a spectator of international political decision-making.
Maktabi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Throughout its (political) history, the U.S. image as an international player has never suffered the way it did under Obama’s term.”
Maktabi said that it was still unclear whether Washington would accept the invitation to participate in the Astana talks, adding that even if the U.S. decided to send representatives, their participation would be very symbolic.
Lebanon’s former ambassador to Washington Riyad Tabbara agrees with Maktabi. “Obama’s policy shrunk the U.S. (role) in the world and mainly in the Middle East region. Russians are now dealing with Washington as a secondary state by simply sending an invitation letter to the U.S. to attend the Astana talks as a guest.”