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By Russ Read
The Trump administration will not send a representative to next week’s round of Syrian peace talks despite an invitation from Russia in order to focus on the transition, reported the Washington Post Saturday.
Russia specifically invited Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to the talks, which are co-sponsored by Turkey and Iran, but the “immediate demands of the transition” will prevent U.S. attendance, the Department of State told the Washington Post.
“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,” said acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement.
The invitation comes as the Trump administration is still in flux, especially regarding diplomatic positions. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, has yet to be confirmed by the senate, though he is expected to make it through Monday afternoon’s vote, after securing support from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
The initial round of peace talks started Saturday in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital. The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Director of Russian Studies Leon Aron believes U.S. absence may be a good thing.
“First, it makes little sense to rush into any high-level negotiations before the incoming Trump administration completes a comprehensive strategic review, which will elucidate key national security interests, strategies to advance them, and tactical priorities for their implementation.,” said Aron in a post on AEIdeas Wednesday.
Aron argued the Trump administration, regardless of Tillerson’s nomination, risks “damaging U.S. national interests” by being caught unprepared in the negotiations.
Additionally, the Astana talks are “likely to inflict precisely this sort of damage,” said Aron.
“The US is invited to witness the restoration of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, sign off on the death sentence of the pro-Western opposition, and agree to the de-facto carving up of Syria into Russian, Iranian and Turkish occupation zones,” he added.