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Astana Meeting on Syria Opens with High-Level U.S. Representation

May 3, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Fourth International Meeting on the Syrian Settlement opened in Astana, Kazakhstan, today, with, for the first time, U.S. representation higher than an ambassador, in the person of Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Stuart Jones. The White House announced yesterday that Jones would be going after President Trump’s phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, though the decision to send him was reportedly made the day before. Otherwise, all the delegations that were expected—the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian delegations representing the guarantor powers of the cease fire that was announced on Dec. 29, 2016; UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, the representative from Jordan, and the Syrian government delegation.

The delegation representing the armed opposition groups, led by Mohammed Alloush, the political director of Jaish al Islam, arrived in Astana yesterday, but announced today that it was suspending its participation in the talks "because of the violent air strikes on civilians," a source in the opposition told Agence France Presse. A source close to the opposition confirmed to AFP, however, that the Russian proposal to create de-escalation zones in Syria, which Putin and Trump had also discussed the day before, is under consideration.