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Russia scores diplomacy points by mentoring Kazakhstan on Mideast

As the United States appears to be slipping out of the Middle East diplomacy picture, Russia is sharing the spotlight with its ally Kazakhstan in Syrian negotiations.

Few people are aware that Kazakhstan played a major role in ending the diplomatic crisis that followed Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane last year. Now Kazakhstan is taking a much more public mediator role in strategic talks among Moscow, Ankara, Tehran and Damascus on Syria’s future.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had agreed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to hold Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital of Astana. On Dec. 18, after talking to Putin by phone, Erdogan said positive steps have been taken for the future of Syria and the situation in Aleppo, and that talks hosted by Kazakhstan will continue.

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