Kerry says Washington encourages Astana talks on Syria

Al Manar– The United States is encouraging Syria peace talks being prepared by Russia later this month in the Kazakh capital Astana and hopes they will produce a step toward peace, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.

“We’re encouraging a meeting in Astana. We hope that could produce a step forward,” Kerry told reporters during his final news conference at the State Department.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier that Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syrian government had all agreed to hold the talks in Astana although no date has been set.

Kerry said he had talked to U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the

objective remained “to get to Geneva where the real meat of the talks is going to take place.”

After several failed ceasefire attempts brokered by Kerry and Lavrov, the United States remained out of the latest Syrian talks. It is unclear whether the United States will attend the Astana talks.

With two weeks left in the Obama administration, Kerry said it was unclear what the new administration’s approach to foreign policy would be under President-elect Donald Trump.

“Nobody can predict what choices this administration is going to make. I don’t know. I don’t think you do,” said Kerry, “The question a lot of people are asking is: Do they know? We’re going to have to wait and see what choices they make.”

Trump has nominated Rex Tillerson, the former head of Exxon Mobil, as secretary of state although it is unclear when his confirmation hearing will take place.