Moscow to invite new Trump administration to Syria peace talks in Astana

The Kremlin bypassed President Obama, not involved in the background work for the talks in the Kazakh capital. Outgoing administration tells Trump to honour the invitation. Russia is in favour of the "broadest possible representation of the parties." According to Ankara, the US presence is necessary.

Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia has invited Donald Trump's incoming administration to attend Syria peace talks set to start on 23 January in Kazakhstan, The Washington Post reported Friday.

In doing so, Moscow has bypassed the Obama administration, which has been notably absent from the process largely led by Russia and Turkey (as well as Iran).

Turkey, which is co-hosting the talks with Russia, has said Washington would be asked to join the talks being held in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

No confirmation has come from Moscow, and the current US administration said Friday it had not been asked to take part.

"We have not received any kind of formal invitation to the meeting," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

"But if we do receive an invitation, we will certainly make a recommendation" to Trump's incoming administration to honour it, he said.

The timetable puts the meeting just three days after the Republican president-elect takes office on January 20, succeeding the Democrat Barack Obama.

Russia and Turkey have also encouraged the still fragile national truce in Syria, which came into effect midnight 30 December.

Invitations to the talks have yet to be sent out, and the format of the discussions remains unclear, diplomatic sources said.

According to The Washington Post, the Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, extended an invitation to attend the upcoming talks in a December 28 telephone conversation with Trump's incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn.

So far, "no decision was made" has been made by the incoming Trump administration. However, the latter has shown greater openness towards the kremlin, and future relations between the US and Russia.

Though the United States has not been a direct party to this specific initiative, Toner said, "we have been in close contact with both the Russians and the Turks as this has gone forward.”

"And, we would encourage the incoming administration to continue to pursue those efforts.”

The Kremlin, which is counting on improved relations with the White House, refused Friday to say whether Washington should be invited to Astana.

However, Moscow is "interested in the broadest possible representation of the parties who have a bearing on the prospects of a political settlement in Syria," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added that "The United States should be definitely invited, and that is what we agreed with Russia".

Peace talks in Astana should be a preamble to a new round of negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva, starting on 8 February under the aegis of the United Nations.

The last two meetings in the Swiss city failed to yield any concrete and lasting results for peace.