Sunday, January 15, 2017

Turkey: US to Be Invited to Syria Peace Talks

United States officials will be invited by Turkey and Russia to attend new Syria peace talks set to take place in Kazakhstan later this month, Turkey’s foreign minister said Saturday.

Mevlut Cavusoglu had previously expressed support for U.S. participation in the talks, though Russia has yet to publicly acknowledge any support for the invitation to U.S. officials.

“First of all, as you know, we agreed with Russia on inviting the United States. I spoke with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov and we will invite the United States,” he said. “We don’t deny the role of United States.”

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also said Friday that Russia has invited the Trump administration to participate in the peace deal.

The invitation, according to Spicer, came during a phone call December 29 between Trump advisor Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, the same day the Obama administration announced it would impose new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for meddling in the U.S. election.

Peace process had been frozen

The Obama administration had previously been frozen out of the peace process after talks between the U.S. and Russia broke down in late December. Both the US and Russia accused each other of trying to sabotage the previous round of talks.

Syria’s government and rebel fighters agreed to a nationwide cease-fire on December 30 during talks brokered by Russia and Turkey. The U.S. was absent from the discussions.

An official date for the new talks hasn’t yet been set, but Russia hopes to convene the peace summit in the Kazakh capital of Astana later this month.

Cavusoglu said Saturday that Turkey would oppose any participation in the talks by the Syrian Kurdish militant group YPG, which he called a “terrorist organization.”

“We have given them opportunities to stop seceding Syria and carrying out terrorist activities in Turkey. We saw their intentions. Our operation ‘Euphrates Shield’ once again showed that YPG is not aiming to fight against Daesh [Islamic State] but to divide Syria,” he said.

Turkey wants the U.S. to sever its ties with the YPG, but the U.S. has provided aid to the group and considers its members allies in the looming battle to wrest Raqqa from IS militants.

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