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    Russia, Turkey and Iran have kick started the Syrian peace process by brokering a ceasefire and holding talks in Kazakhstan. However, Moscow appears to be interested in bringing Washington on board when it comes to resolving the Syrian crisis so that the two countries could work together to tackle terrorists, Michael Maloof told Radio Sputnik.

    "It is very intriguing to see that the United States is not included," the former senior security policy analyst to the US Secretary of Defense said, referring to the recent negotiations in Astana.

    The talks held on January 23-24 saw a delegation from Damascus and representatives of key armed opposition groups come to the negotiating table for the first time since a foreign-sponsored insurgency morphed into a war in 2011. The meeting was brokered by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran. The United States was invited to take part, but the US State Department later said that it would not send a special delegation. The US ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol attended the talks.

    Maloof described the Astana talks as "a beginning" and a "positive step."

    "I know that there was a lot of grumbling among the delegates, particularly the opposition, but at least they sat down and they talked," he said. "You have to commend Russia, Iran and Turkey for doing that."

    Maloof further suggested that "Moscow is going to want the US involved" in Syria "to eradicate [terrorist groups] from the face of the earth, as Trump would say." The United States "will have a place" in the Syrian peace process, he noted, adding that the trilateral group, comprising Russia, Turkey and Iran has the leading role in this process at the moment.

    The analyst maintained that Russia and the United States could join their counterterrorism efforts in Syria.

    "That's the hope and expectations. Certainly, the Trump administration has signaled that. Once [the national security team of the Trump administration has settled in] I think you are going to see much more collaboration and cooperation than you did heretofore," he said.

    Maloof also explained why Russia struggled to reach a lasting cooperation agreement on Syria with the Obama administration.

    "The Obama administration had a different agenda. They were actively supporting Sunnis and ultimately al-Nusra Front and elements of [Daesh] to basically overthrow [President Bashar al-Assad]. This is not the political reality that we are seeing today. It's clear that Assad has become stronger over time as a result of the Russian participation," he said, adding that the Obama administration had "no alternative strategies" when it became clear that its efforts became "obsolete."

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    Syrian crisis, Syrian peace talks, Syrian conflict, counterterrorism, Astana talks on Syria, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Syria, United States, Russia
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