Russia has agreed for the United States to be involved in the Syrian peace talks planned for 23 January in Astana, though notably only after US President Barack Obama has left office.
The news was confirmed by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who said: “The United States should be definitely invited, and that is what we agreed with Russia.”
Cavusoglu was speaking to journalists in Geneva yesterday after an international conference to thrash out a deal on Cyprus’ reunification.
Moscow and Ankara last month brokered a fragile Syrian ceasefire, but without the involvement of Washington.
The truce – which does not include Daesh or Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front – has brought a reduction in hostilities to large parts of the country, but violence has continued through a series of explosions that rocked Damascus late last night.
A suicide bomber killed at least eight people in a high-security district of Damascus, while a series of explosions later ripped through a military airport on the western outskirts of the city.
Meanwhile, the Assad regime and allied Iran-backed Shia jihadists from Hezbollah have been relentlessly assaulting villages and towns in the strategic Wadi Barada valley, west of the capital.
The US had been sidelined during the talks between Turkey, Russia, Assad regime representatives and the Syrian opposition.
US Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged earlier this month talks being prepared by Russia and Turkey, hoping that the talks “could produce a step forward”.
However, the continuing violence in Wadi Barada and other areas means that the Astana peace talks could fall through before they even get off the ground. Another aspect is that the Assad regime could be making a land grab before any settlement in Astana can put an end to hostilities.