US ambassador to Kazakhstan to attend Astana Syria talks

US ambassador to Kazakhstan to attend Astana Syria talks
The US State Department has announced it was sending its Kazakhstan envoy to attend next week's Syria peace talks in Astana instead of a delegation from Washington.
2 min read
21 January, 2017
The peace talks come after the regime scored a symbolic victory by retaking Aleppo [AFP]

The United States ambassador to Kazakhstan will attend Syrian peace talks in the capital Astana next week instead of a delegation from Washington due to "immediate demands of the transition", the State Department said on Saturday.

According to the the State Department's acting spokesperson Mark Toner, ambassador George Krol will attend the 23 January 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 US was committed to a political resolution to the Syrian crisis through a Syrian-owned process.

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

Next week's talks, which aim to bring together representatives of the Syrian government and rebel groups, mark the first time since the conflict began in 2011 that the US has not been at the centre of peace negotiations.

The talks come in the wake of the Syrian regime's symbolic victory last month in retaking Aleppo, Syria's second city and a key rebel stronghold through much of the war.

Iran and Russia have been the key diplomatic and military backers of the Syrian government in the war, while Turkey has supported rebel groups.