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Trump administration won't send delegation to Syria talks

By Allen Cone
Trump administration won't send delegation to Syria talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-L) meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (2-R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) in Moscow, Russia, on December 20, 2016. The trilateral meeting were held to discuss the situation in Syria. Talks are scheduled to start Monday in Kazakhstan with repsentatives from Turkey, Iran and Russia to meet with members of the Syrian government and armed opposition groups. Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto agency

Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The Trump administration won't send a delegation to talks on the war in Syria, the State Department said.

The U.S. government's only representative when the talks begin Monday in Astana, Kazakhstan, will be its ambassador to Kazakhstan, officials said.

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"The United States is committed to a political resolution to the Syrian crisis through a Syrian-owned process, which can bring about a more representative, peaceful and united Syria," acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Saturday 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 has served under the Obama administration.

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Russia and Turkey had supported the idea of a U.S. delegation to attend the talks.

The Kremlin excluded former Secretary of State John Kerry from Syria negotiations sponsored by Moscow and Ankara at the end of last year.

Russia's ambassador to the United States had personally invited President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, to the talks.

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Iran has publicly been opposed to Trump diplomats attending the talks. Kerry had been a strong proponent of including Iran, a backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in peace talks.

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Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the Kremlin was disappointed that Iran wasn't supportive of the inclusion of an American delegation at Astana.

"This is probably the cause of some disagreement between Moscow and Tehran," Peskov told the BBC in a television interview. "It is obvious that without the United States it is impossible to resolve the Syrian issue."

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Representatives from the Syrian government and opposition groups plan to attend the talks and conduct face-to-face talks for the first time.

The United States has backed the rebels.

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