December 18, 2017

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Is Russia Dominating Middle East Geopolitics Narratives?

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STATE DEPARTMENT — 

The United States was on the sidelines as peace talks aimed at ending the war in Syria got under way in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana. U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol represented the Trump administration as an observer, while Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Syrian rebels tried to work out a long-term peace agreement. But the absence of a strong U.S. voice in the talks is raising questions about the future of American influence in the Middle East.

The Astana talks were brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran with no direct U.S. input. The invitation for Washington to participate as an observer came from the government of Kazakhstan, according to the State Department.

“Our position remains the same with regard to any effort to bring about a durable cease-fire in Syria. At the same time, we want to see access — full access — for humanitarian assistance. And then, ultimately, we want to see that political negotiations are back up and running in Geneva between the parties. Because, ultimately, that is the way to solve this,” State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner told VOA on Monday.

FILE – This image provided by the Syrian anti-government group Aleppo 24 news, shows damaged trucks carrying aid, in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 20, 2016.

Toner added that the long-term solution to the Syrian crisis is a political, not a military, one.

“We’ve got to get these political talks up and running again because that’s the way out of this,” he said. “And what those political talks need to result in is a political process, a transition, that respects the Syrian people’s desires and aspirations for a more democratic system. This is not for us to decide; this is for the Syrians themselves to work out. “

‘Rejection’ of U.S.

While the U.S. has not been a direct party of organizing the Astana talks, Washington does not oppose the initiative and has been in close contact with both Moscow and Ankara.

But experts said the Astana meetings were conducted “in some way as a rejection of the United States.”

“I think this is all part of sort of a wide political scheme in order to present the United States with certain facts and get it on board largely with what is a Russian position,” Michael Kofman, from the Center for Naval Analyses, told VOA.

Kofman added, “I have no doubt that Russia, Iran

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