U.S. Ambassador To Kazakhstan To Attend Syria Peace Talks In Astana

The U.S. State Department says it will not send a delegation from Washington to attend Syria peace talks due to start in Astana on January 23, but the United States will be represented by the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan.

The statement from Washington on January 21 came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump took a formal oath of office.

Many of Trump's nominations for cabinet and ambassadorial posts have yet to be confirmed by the U.S. lawmakers, including the top U.S. diplomatic post of Secretary of State.

The current U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, was appointed to that post by former President Barack Obama in early 2015.

Krol previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan and to Belarus.

Krol also formerly worked as the director of the State Department's Office of Russian Affairs, and held diplomatic posts in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kyiv, Minsk, Warsaw, and New Delhi.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on January 20 that Moscow hoped Trump would send a Middle East expert to the Astana talks, which are sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

The United Nations Security Council on January 20 expressed support for the peace talks in Astana, but stressed that the effort must not serve to sideline UN-led negotiations.

The UN is sending its Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to the talks.

UN Security Council Council president Olof Skoog, a diplomat from Sweden, said on January 20 that the Astana talks could help shore up a cease-fire and "represent an important stepping stone coming back to UN-led talks in Geneva thereafter."

Western powers have for weeks questioned the purpose of the Astana talks and raised concerns that they could complicate ongoing processes aimed at ending the nearly six-year war in Syria.

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