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UN Warns Syria Peace Talks In Astana Should Not Become Separate Initiative

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura (file photo)

The United Nations Security Council has expressed support for Syria peace talks sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran next week, 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, which start on January 23 in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on January 20 to discuss the initiative.

Sweden's ambassador and council president Olof Skoog said the Astana talks could help shore up a ceasefire 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 open up a new track of negotiations to end the nearly six-year war in Syria.

Washington on January 19 confirmed that it received an invitation to attend the Astana talks.

But the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan said on January 20 that it could not confirm whether U.S. President Donald Trump's administration would send a representative.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Interfax