Biden administration appoints Aimee Cutrona as acting special envoy for Syria

She is also deputy assistant secretary of state for Levant affairs

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to staff at the US State Department during the first visit of US President Joe Biden(L) in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced concern over jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny and imprisoned Americans in a telephone call Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. / AFP / SAUL LOEB

The State Department on Thursday announced the appointment of Aimee Cutrona as acting special representative for Syria engagement.

The US embassy in Syria said on Twitter that Ms Cutrona, who also serves as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Levant affairs, assumed the new role last month.

It said she “has extensive experience supporting US diplomacy in the region".

Ms Cutrona has served as the Biden administration's acting envoy for Syria engagement since January 25, replacing Joel Rayburn who held the position under president Donald Trump.

Mr Rayburn also served as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Levant affairs.

Ms Cutrona was deputy chief of mission in Bahrain from 2016 to 2019 and has extensive experience in Middle East diplomacy.

She also served as a political affairs officer at the US embassies in Qatar and Egypt.

A veteran in the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, she helped to craft US policy in Iraq, Tunisia and Algeria from Washington.

Ms Cutrona served as special assistant to the undersecretary for global affairs, working on the battle against human trafficking and promoting international women’s issues.

Despite her appointment, President Joe Biden has yet to nominate an assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, which requires Senate confirmation.

Barbara Leaf, the former ambassador to the UAE who serves on the National Security Council's Middle East team at the White House, is a top contender for that position.

Ms Leaf's current director at the National Security Council, Middle East co-ordinator Brett McGurk, has extensive Syrian experience as the former envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS under the administrations of Barack Obama and Mr Trump.

Mr McGurk resigned from the Trump administration after the former president withdrew US troops from the northern Syrian border.

That paved the way for a Turkish offensive against the US-backed Kurdish forces who were mainly responsible for defeating ISIS’s self-styled caliphate.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Ms Cutrona was appointed as deputy secretary of state for Levant affairs. She already held that position when she was appointed acting special representative for Syria engagement on January 25.

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