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US Declined Invitation to Attend Astana Talks on Syria 

US Declined Invitation to Attend Astana Talks on Syria 
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By Staff, Agencies 

Russia's Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev revealed that the United States refused to attend the Astana-format talks on Syria, which started Tuesday in Russia's resort city of Sochi.

"We sent an invitation to our American partners to attend the Astana-15 conference, but regrettably we received a decline. In the time being the Americans are busy with internal matters and apparently haven't decided on an approach with regards to Syria. Well, we shall wait and see," Lavrentyev said.

“Delegations of Turkey, Iran, the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition, and the United Nations have already arrived in the Russian resort city of Sochi to take part in the Astana-format talks on Syria,” he added.

The Russian diplomat further highlighted "Right now, the delegations of the Turkish Republic, the delegation from Iran, the delegations of the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government [have arrived]. Additionally, a delegation from the UN has arrived, headed by the [UN] secretary general's special envoy, Geir Pedersen. A delegation from the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross]. Observers from Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon have also arrived.”

“An impulse should be given to the Syrian crisis settlement,” the special envoy stressed, also pointing to “plans to discuss Syria's constitutional committee with Pedersen.”

In parallel, Lavrentyev expressed regret over Syria's isolation, which "limits the organization of an equal dialogue with the Syrian authorities." He also slammed the unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington as a "collective punishment of Syrian people."

"It is time for the Syrian opposition to take matters into its hands to liberate territories from terrorist presence," Lavrentyev continued, also noting that talks with Syrian opposition forces should be held to distance them from radical groups.

Terrorism fight, refugees and "illegal acquisition of natural resources by international corporations" will be on the agenda, he announced, expressing hope for positive results of the meetings.