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Iran opposes US participation in Syria peace talks in Astana: Zarif

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has expressed the Islamic Republic’s opposition to the participation of the United States in the forthcoming Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan, which aim to boost efforts to end the nearly six-year-old conflict in the Arab country.

The top Iranian diplomat made the remarks in answer to a question asked by the Tasnim News Agency on Tuesday ahead of the planned peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

“We have not invited the US and oppose their presence [at the talks]," Zarif said.

The Astana negotiations will be held between representatives from the Damascus government and foreign-sponsored opposition groups on January 23.

The negotiations, which exclude the Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist groups, are mediated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The three countries successfully implemented a similar accord in December after militants were defeated in Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on January 8 that he was "optimistic" about the upcoming peace negotiations in Astana, and expressed his government's readiness to negotiate with the armed opposition groups.

Mohammad Alloush, the head of the political office of the so-called Jaish al-Islam militant group, said on Monday that foreign-sponsored militant groups had decided to attend the Syria peace.

The Astana talks would be held in the wake of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on December 31.

Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city, was fully liberated in December 2016, less than a month after the Syrian army started to drive foreign-backed militants out of their stronghold in the eastern side of the strategic city.

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