Russia seeks invitation for US to Syria peace talks in Astana, Iran ‘against’

Iran says it rejects any participation by US representatives at the scheduled Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he believes US and UN representatives should be invited to the meeting.

“We are opposed to a US presence [in Astana],” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is  as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

We have not invited them [US], and we are against their presence,” the official added. 

Lavrov: US diplomats frequently took part in Russian opposition rallies

Lavrov said that extending an invitation to the US would be the “right thing” to do.

We’re now preparing the Astana meeting. We think it would be the right thing to invite the representatives of the UN and the new US administration to the meeting, taking into account that the meeting will take place on January 23, as planned,” Lavrov said at a press conference summing the results of the Russian diplomacy in 2016.

Russia hopes the incoming Trump administration will accept the invitation.

We’re counting on the new [US] administration accepting this invitation and being represented by experts on any level they consider possible. It will be the first official contact during which we could begin discussing stepping up the efficiency of fighting terrorism in Syria,” Lavrov added.

Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin, has joined calls for the UN to be onboard during the Syria peace talks in Astana. According to Churkin, UN representatives could act as “moderators of contacts between the Syrian sides.”

Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, told RIA Novosti that the UN “has received an invitation to take part” and will attend. He added the UN representatives will “try to give maximum support” to the negotiations.

Lavrov's statement on the US comes hours after Kazakh authorities reconfirmed their readiness to hold the negotiations, saying they possess “the relevant experience.

We hosted the negotiations on the Iran's nuclear program in Alma-Ata, and two rounds of Syrian talks were held in Astana,” the Kazakh foreign minister stated.

Earlier in the week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that there was an agreement to invite the US side, bit this wasn’t confirmed by Moscow at the time.

Lavrov also said at Tuesday’s press conference that Russia was right to intervene in Syria, as “Damascus was two to three weeks from falling” when Moscow sent military help.

We’re convinced that we did what was right, when we said yes to the lawful request of the government of Syria – a UN member country whose capital was in two to three weeks from falling into the hands of terrorists. And the fact that we managed to throw the terrorists back from Damascus and help the Syrian army liberate Aleppo, I think it’s very important,” Lavrov said.

He noted that Russia's help was essential "to keep Syria a multinational, multi-confessional, secular state, as the UN Security Council states."

"All those who spent a year and a half silently watching IS and other militants surround Aleppo maybe committed a crime, as they breached the UN resolution, which stated that Syria should be prevented from turning into an Islamist state," he concluded.