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Russia invites U.S. to join Syria peace talks

By
Daniel Uria
President-elect Donald Trump's pick for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was invited to join new peace talks on Syria, according to incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The talks, organized by Russia and Turkey, are scheduled to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, beginning Jan. 23, three days after Trump's inauguration.
 Pool Photo by Anthony Behar/UPI
President-elect Donald Trump's pick for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was invited to join new peace talks on Syria, according to incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The talks, organized by Russia and Turkey, are scheduled to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, beginning Jan. 23, three days after Trump's inauguration. Pool Photo by Anthony Behar/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Russia's ambassador invited the Donald Trump administration to join upcoming Syria peace talks during a phone call in December, according to a Trump spokesperson.

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak invited Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to the Syria peace talks during a phone call on Dec. 29, ABC News reported.

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The phone call took place on the same day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and new sanctions as punishment for what the it says amounted to meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Spicer initially said the conversation focused solely on setting up a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump following his election, but he later revealed Kislyak extended an invitation to the peace talks during the call.

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The talks are set to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, beginning Jan. 23, three days after the inauguration.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States would attend the talks, but a transition official told the Washington Post that "no decision was made" during the phone call.

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The Russian embassy in Washington provided no comment relating to the phone call between Kislyak and Flynn, but confirmed the ambassador will be present at Trump's inauguration.

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"The Embassy does not comment on multiple contacts, which are carried out on a daily basis with local interlocutors," an embassy spokesperson said. "According to the practice and protocol rules, foreign ambassadors are invited to the U.S. president's inauguration. The invitation to the event addressed to Russia's ambassador Sergey Kislyak was received from the State Department. The ambassador will participate in the event."

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported that Flynn had previously contacted Kislyak on Dec. 19 to express condolences for the terrorist killing of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and again on Dec. 28 to express condolences for the crash of a Russian plane carrying a choir to Syria.

Spicer also said that Flynn and Kislyak had exchanged Christmas greetings via text message on Dec. 25.

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The State Department and the White House agreed the communication between the incoming administration and foreign diplomats was acceptable, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the context of the conversations were important to determining whether or not an objection should be raised.

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"As a general matter, you know on principle, you can imagine why these kinds of interactions may have taken place, why the incoming national security advisor may have the need to contact the representative of a foreign government based here in Washington D.C.," he said. "It depends on what they discussed. It depends on what he said, in terms of whether or not we would have significant objections about those conversations."

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