Posts Tagged ‘Lavrov’

Russia Urges India to Back China’s Belt and Road

December 11, 2017

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (C) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands before the start of their meeting in New Delhi, India, December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi Reuters

By Sanjeev Miglani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Russia threw its weight behind China’s massive Belt and Road plan to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond, suggesting to India on Monday that it find a way to work with Beijing on the signature project.

India is strongly opposed to an economic corridor that China is building in Pakistan that runs through disputed Kashmir as part of the Belt and Road initiative.

India was the only country that stayed away from a May summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote the plan to build railways, ports and power grids in a modern-day recreation of the Silk Road.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said New Delhi should not let political problems deter it from joining the project, involving billions of dollars of investment, and benefiting from it.

Lavrov was speaking in the Indian capital after a three-way meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at which, he said, India’s reservations over the Chinese project were discussed.

“I know India has problems, we discussed it today, with the concept of One Belt and One Road, but the specific problem in this regard should not make everything else conditional to resolving political issues,” he said.

Russia, all the countries in central Asia, and European nations had signed up to the Chinese project to boost economic cooperation, he said.

“Those are the facts,” he said. “India, I am 100 percent convinced, has enough very smart diplomats and politicians to find a way which would allow you to benefit from this process.”

The comments by Russia, India’s former Cold War ally, reflected the differences within the trilateral grouping formed 15 years ago to challenge U.S.-led dominance of global affairs.

But substantial differences between India and China, mainly over long-standing border disputes, have snuffed out prospects of any real cooperation among the three.

India, in addition, has drawn closer to the United States in recent years, buying weapons worth billions of dollars to replace its largely Soviet-origin military.

Swaraj said the three countries had very productive talks on economic issues and the fight against terrorism.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

 

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China and Russia Express Pessimism About North Korean Tensions — Can’t Trust the U.S.

December 9, 2017
 Updated on 
  • Foreign minister ‘not optimistic’ about standoff with U.S.
  • North Korea says UN delegation agreed on regular communication

China expressed pessimism about bringing the North Korean standoff to a peaceful resolution, even as Kim Jong Un’s regime touted new United Nations support for “regular” talks.

Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi said Saturday that “the outlook is not optimistic” on the Korean Peninsula and urged both sides to end what he said was a “vicious cycle” of confrontation. Wang’s remarks — part of a broad foreign policy speech in Beijing — came hours after North Korea said that a departing UN delegation had agreed to communications to help ease tensions.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Wang said there was still hope for a diplomatic solution and reiterated a Chinese proposal for both sides to build trust by suspending military drills and weapons tests. “The first step to pull the situation on the peninsula out of the current ‘black hole’ of confrontation is to create the conditions and atmosphere to restart dialogue,” Wang said.

The UN’s top official for political affairs, Undersecretary General Jeffrey Feltman, left North Korea on Saturday after a visit that sought to ease tensions over the country’s nuclear weapons program. The U.S. sent B-1B bombers to join massive aerial drills with South Korea after Kim tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach any American city.

The UN visit was part of a flurry of efforts involving countries from Canada to Germany to help facilitate talks between Kim’s regime and U.S. President Donald Trump. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that the visit contributed to a deeper understanding and that they agreed to communicate at “various levels.”

“The UN secretariat’s side expressed its readiness to make a contribution to the relaxation of the tension on the peninsula under the UN Charter, which stipulates the mission of the UN based on the guarantee of international peace and security,” KCNA said in it’s English-language report. The report said Feltman paid a “courtesy call” on North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and held talks with a vice minister of foreign affairs.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said by email Saturday that the delegation had a “broad policy dialogue” in Pyongyang and that the body might have further comment later.

‘Not Meaningful’

“I don’t believe this in itself is meaningful,” said Shin Beomchul, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy. North Korea wanted to use the UN to gain legitimacy and get the U.S. to the negotiating table and acknowledge it as a nuclear state, he said.

The U.S. has refused to consider negotiations while Kim tests increasingly powerful nuclear bombs and lobs missiles into the sea around Japan. In an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said that the Trump administration would be ready for talks if North Korea renounced further nuclear or missile tests.

Any UN mediation effort would require approval from the UN Security Council, where the U.S. wields veto power. The Security Council has called for the resumption of the so-called six-party talks, which included China, Japan, Russia and South Korea and broke off in 2009.

North Korea Defies the World With Nuclear Ambitions: QuickTake

Weapons tests by North Korea have prompted the Security Council to pass two sets of sanctions blocking about 90 percent of that nation’s reported exports, including coal and seafood, as well as imports of some oil products. The KCNA report said the UN’s Feltman acknowledged the negative effect of sanctions and showed an intention to seek cooperation in keeping with body’s humanitarian mission.

Trump has sought to pressure China to rein in its ally and neighbor before it acquires a nuclear arsenal advanced enough to deter a U.S. attack. Kim said the test showed that North Korea’s nuclear program was complete because it could deliver an atomic warhead anywhere in the U.S.

While Kim hasn’t yet proven he has the technology to put a warhead on an ICBM and deliver it safely to a target, the test has put new pressure on the U.S. and its allies to find a solution. By declaring his weapons program complete, Kim may have created a path to resume negotiations from a position of strength.

“North Korea’s effort to strengthen relations with the UN is an extension of its announcement it completed its nuclear program last month in that both aim for negotiations with the U.S.,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Wang, the Chinese foreign minister, said that all avenues must be pursued to avoid conflict.

“Hope for peace has not yet been eliminated,” Wang said. “The prospect for negotiations still exists. The choice of using force is absolutely unacceptable.”

— With assistance by Kambiz Foroohar, Gareth Allan, and Janet Ong

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-09/north-korea-says-un-expressed-willingness-to-ease-korea-tensions

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Lavrov: U.S. Threats To Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal Make North Korea Wary

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said U.S. threats to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran are hampering efforts to end the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

Lavrov said at a summit in Vienna on December 8 that in his talks with Pyongyang, he’s found North Korea is willing to negotiate a de-escalation of the crisis with the United States, but it has doubts about whether Washington will abide by any deal in light of what happened with Iran.

The question is “how to convince North Korea that a deal won’t be rejected in a year or two by a new American administration,” Lavrov said, according to a translation of his remarks on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“North Korea needs security guarantees, especially when Washington is about to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal,” he said.

With both sides escalating the conflict this year through a series of missile and nuclear tests by North Korea and U.S. and South Korean military drills, Lavrov said, “now, of course, it will be more difficult to create conditions for the resumption of the dialogue.”

After a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on December 7, Lavrov had said Moscow was ready to try to mediate talks between Washington and Pyongyang at the same time he accused the United States of contributing to increased tensions.

“We know that North Korea wants foremost to discuss security guarantees with the United States. We’re ready to support, to participate in these negotiations,” Lavrov said at the time.

“We are convinced of the need to end the vicious cycle of confrontation, carelessness, and provocations.”

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa

https://www.rferl.org/a/lavrov-us-threats-withdraw-iran-nuclear-deal-make-north-korea-wary-negotiating-nuclear-crisis/28906403.html

Russia says North Korea is ready for direct nuclear talks with the US

December 8, 2017

Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, meets Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, in Vienna CREDIT:TASS VIA GETTY IMAGES

North Korea is open to coming to the table for direct talks with the US over its nuclear ambitions, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told his American counterpart Rex Tillerson on Thursday.

The message was delivered to Mr Tillerson during an international conference in the Austrian capital, Vienna, but there was no immediate response from the state department which has long insisted that North Korea be willing to denuclearise as a condition for talks.

“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Mr Lavrov said at an international conference in Vienna, according to the Interfax news agency.

“Our American colleagues, [including] Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”

Mr Lavrov’s apparent offer coincided with a meeting between Jeffrey Feltman, United Nations political affairs chief, and Ri Yong-ho, North Korean foreign minister, during the first UN trip to Pyongyang in six years.

The diplomatic overtures come amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea after the hermit kingdom tested its “most powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date last week, claiming that it could strike the US mainland.

America and neighbouring South Korea responded with a show of force this week, conducting their largest ever joint air force drill, involving 12,000 US service members, and F-22 Raptors and F-35 stealth fighters training close to the border with the North.

Although Washington stressed that the joint operation was a routine annual exercise, North Korea warned on Wednesday that the outbreak of war had become “an established fact.”

But despite its overt bellicose statements, early indications that Pyongyang may be ready for talks with Washington initially emerged after a Russian parliamentary delegation paid a visit to the North Korean leadership from November 27 to December 1.

According to the TASS news agency, Vitaly Pashin, a member of Russia’s lower house, reported back that the North Koreans would be willing to go to the table with Moscow as a mediator between the two sides.

Pyongyang had complained to the Russian delegation about “regular external aggression” on the part of the US, using this as a justification for its latest ICBM test, he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a potato flour factory
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a potato flour factory CREDIT: KCNA VIA REUTERS

The North Koreans claimed that they “had refrained from military provocations for 75 days awaiting reciprocal steps from the US, which, instead of meeting [North Korea] halfway, announced large-scale surprise military drills,” Mr Pashin said.

In the face of looming military confrontation, Washington has also reached out informally to Pyongyang over the past year through Joseph Yun, the US special representative for North Korea policy.

The North Koreans walked away from the so-called “New York channel” after US President Donald Trump threatened to ‘totally destroy’ the country in a speech to the UN general assembly in September.

But they have since indicated during a meeting of western experts and officials in Stockholm in late November that they may be open to military to military communication.

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BY  

Newsweek

North Korea is ready to talk directly to the U.S. about “guarantees for its security” after trading threats of war with President Donald Trump, Russia’s top diplomat has said.

“We are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, offering the latest indication that Moscow seeks to bill itself as peace broker in the spiraling crisis around North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The rogue state has conducted a series of tests this year to declare itself now capable of striking U.S. territory with nuclear missiles.

Read More: Russia is sending its marines on live fire drills near its North Korea border

Speaking after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Vienna on Thursday, Lavrov said that he had made his American colleagues aware of Russia’s position, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reports.

Trump has regularly expressed skepticism over engaging in dialogue with North Korea and the diplomatic relationship between Washington and Pyongyang has long been limited. One of the most significant talks between the two sides occurred in 1994 against the wishes of then-President Bill Clinton, as his predecessor Jimmy Carter voluntarily visited Pyongyang to strike a deal with the regime of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, Tillerson has vowed to continue the diplomatic effort “until the first bomb drops” and some reports suggest it may not be U.S. reluctance that is holding up the process behind the scenes.

The main U.S. negotiator with North Korea Joseph Yun now has a “broader mandate” in his calls to Pyongyang than before. A senior State Department official told Reuters last month that calls have “not been limited at all, both (in) frequency and substance.”

12_08_Lavrov_Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a bilateral meeting during a ministerial council of OSCE Foreign Ministers in Vienna, Austria, December 7, 2017.RONALD ZAK/POOL/REUTERS

This report came less than a month after a North Korean official told CNN that Pyongyang is not willing to meet Washington at a negotiating table. The official did not quash the idea of diplomacy for good but said: “Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States.”

Pyongyang has repeatedly made clear that it seeks public recognition by the U.S. of its nuclear status. A summit with top U.S. officials, chaired by another nuclear power such as Russia, could create this impression better than behind-the-scenes talks.

The U.S. administration’s line on North Korea, and what the solution to the crisis around it should be, remains unclear. Late last month, following another missile test, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called for “all countries should sever diplomatic relations with North Korea” and “cut off trade with the regime.”

http://www.newsweek.com/north-korea-wants-talk-us-trump-wont-do-it-says-moscow-742062

Germany to cut diplomatic mission in North Korea

November 30, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department, confirms that Berlin is reducing its diplomatic footprint in North Korea

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Germany will reduce its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang and require North Korea to reduce its presence in Berlin, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday after meeting his US counterpart.US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed Gabriel to the State Department as Washington is turning up the pressure on its allies to do more to isolate Kim Jong-Un’s defiant nuclear-armed regime.

“We have already reduced our embassy staff in North Korea and will do so once more,” Gabriel told reporters afterwards, adding that two diplomats have been withdrawn and one more will follow.

More Germans may leave the embassy, but this will be carried out in consultation with Germany’s European allies, some of whom also have missions in the North.

“We have also told the North Koreans that they will have to reduce their embassy staff,” he said, adding: “We are thus increasing the diplomatic pressure.”

The Tillerson-Gabriel meeting came after President Donald Trump complained that China has failed to persuade Kim to halt his nuclear and ballistic missile program and as Washington calls for a fuel embargo.

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Russia rejects US call to cut North Korea ties (Dear Donald Trump: Russia is not your friend.)

November 30, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow rejected a US call to cut ties with North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia on Thursday rejected a US call to cut ties with North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.”We see this negatively,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Russian news agencies reported.

“We have repeatedly stated that the pressure of sanctions has been exhausted.”

He accused the United States of seeking to provoke Kim Jong-Un’s regime and demanded to know whether Washington was plotting to destroy the isolated country.

“It’s as if the recent actions of the United States are consciously directed to provoke Pyongyang towards other radical actions,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

“The Americans need to explain what they are aiming for. If they are looking for a reason to destroy North Korea, then they should say it straight and the American leadership should confirm it,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

On Wednesday, Washington warned that North Korea’s leadership will be “utterly destroyed” if war breaks out as it called on countries to cut all diplomatic and trade ties with North Korea.

The latest threat came after North Korea tested its third ICBM, which it claimed was capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

“If war comes, make no mistake: the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.

US President Donald Trump derided Kim as a “sick puppy” and threatened “major” new sanctions.

The Kremlin on Wednesday called the latest missile test a “provocative action” and appealed for calm on all sides.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as one of the most strident voices against punishing Pyongyang, insisting that further sanctions and threats are “useless” against a regime that feels cornered.

The United States earlier this year pressed for a full United Nations Nikki Haleyon North Korea but dropped that demand following resistance from China and Russia.

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Russia attacks, intimidation campaign ‘biased’ chemical arms watchdog over Syria

November 28, 2017

AFP

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© AFP/File | The April 4 attack on the rebel-held Syrian village of Khan Sheikhun killed more than 80 people and triggered global outrage
THE HAGUE (AFP) – Russia launched a scathing attack Tuesday on the global chemical weapons watchdog, accusing it of bias in its probe into the Khan Sheikhun gas attack in Syria earlier this year.In a speech to the annual gathering of the members of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Moscow’s representative lashed what he called “unprofessional and politically-biased working methods” by the body’s inspectors.

This “probably came down from an order on high where some of the Western countries wanted their own version of the bombing in Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons,” said Georgy Kalamanov, Russia’s deputy minister of trade and industry.

The April 4 attack on the opposition-held Syrian village triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide. More than 80 people died, and the United States just days later launched missile strikes on a Syrian air base.

A joint OPCW and UN body, known as the joint mechanism or JIM, has found that it was the Syrian air force that dropped sarin gas on Khan Sheikhun.

But that finding has been fiercely contested by Damascus.

Russia has also rejected the investigation as flawed because the experts did not travel to Khan Sheikhun and said inspectors relied on witnesses that it says were linked to the opposition of President Bashar al-Assad.

It has called for the investigation to be put aside and for a new one to be carried out. Moscow has also twice used its power of veto at the UN Security Council to block the renewal of the JIM.

– ‘Double standard’ –

Syria was being hit by “unfounded accusations” of chemical weapons use even though for years it “has been combatting terrorism and extremism that has been sponsored from outside,” said Kalamanov, adding that was a “double standard” which is only “undermining the credibility of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW.”

The issue of Syria has dominated the annual talks in The Hague of the 192 countries which have ratified the arms treaty, which commits all member states to rid the world of chemical weapons.

Many delegates have bemoaned the lack of condemnation of Syria, which joined the convention in 2013 under Russia and US pressure, at the OPCW.

“Chemical weapons use by the Syrian Arab Republic remains the most serious violation of the CWC in the convention?s 20-year history and the greatest modern challenge to the global norm against chemical weapons use,” said top US official Andrea Hall.

France insists “we cannot accept that a member state to the OPCW has violated our convention by using chemical weapons and does not accept its responsibilities,” said French ambassador Philippe Lalliot.

The JIM, set up two years ago, has also concluded that Syrian regime forces were behind two chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015, while the so-called Islamic State jihadist group used mustard gas in 2015.

The debate at the OPCW headquarters comes as UN-backed talks on ending the six-year civil war in Syria resumed in Geneva.

© 2017 AFP

UN: Syrian Government To Join Peace Talks in Geneva After All — “Syrian Opposition Pledges to Remove Bashar al-Assad”

November 28, 2017

Last Updated: November 28, 2017 14:59 GMT

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura says he will "not accept any preconditions by any party" to the negotiations.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura says he will “not accept any preconditions by any party” to the negotiations.

 

The Syrian government has confirmed its delegation will attend peace talks in Geneva this week after indicating it might skip the negotiations, the United Nations says.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, received a message saying that the government delegation was “planning to arrive tomorrow,” UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a news briefing in Geneva on November 28.

“At least we know that they are coming,” Vellucci said as meetings got under way without the government delegation.

De Mistura said the previous day that Damascus had not yet confirmed its participation in the eighth round of UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending Syria’s more-than-six-year civil war.

De Mistura said the latest round would focus on getting to an “inclusive process” to draft and ratify a new constitution, steps he said were needed before the country can hold elections.

He also said he would “not accept any preconditions by any party” to the negotiations.

Speaking after meeting in Geneva on November 28 with diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — known as the P5 — de Mistura said, “We need the P5 support, because the two delegations [the Syrian government and opposition] obviously listen to members of the P5.”

After arriving in Geneva on November 27, the head of the opposition delegation Nasr Hariri said that the group was aiming for the removal of Assad.

“Our goal in the negotiation will be the departure of Bashar al-Assad from the beginning of the transition,” he said.

Hariri said that major powers, and Russia in particular, should put more pressure on Assad to engage in real negotiations on a political transition followed by a new constitution and free elections, along the lines of a UN road map to end the more-than-six-year war.

Assad’s government “is using delaying tactics to obstruct progress towards a political solution at a time when the opposition comes with one unified delegation,” Hariri said. “Russia…is the only entity capable of bringing the regime to the table of negotiations.”

The pro-government newspaper Al-Watan earlier reported that the Damascus delegation would delay its arrival in Geneva because of the opposition’s insistence Assad step down.

Meanwhile, the White House said that U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, agreed during a phone conversation on November 27 on “the importance of the United Nations-based Geneva Process as the only legitimate forum for achieving a political solution in Syria.”

The two presidents also “stressed the need to confront and reverse Iran’s destabilizing activities in Syria,” a statement said.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions have been driven from their homes since the conflict began in March 2011 with a crackdown on antigovernment protests.

Russia supports Assad’s government and provides air support for government forces. Iran also backs Assad, while the United States and Turkey support differing rebel groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his call for a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict during a surprise visit by Assad in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on November 20.

Expressing thanks for Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict, Assad said, “especially since we’ve attained victory over the terrorists, we want the political process to progress.”

Talks sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey are being held in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to deal with battlefield issues, such as cease-fires and the creation of “de-escalation zones.”

The zones have led to reduced violence in many areas, but deadly air strikes and fighting have continued.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey have also proposed holding a “national congress” of government and opposing forces in the Russian city of Sochi, although no date has been set.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

https://www.rferl.org/a/syria-un-government-hasnt-confirmed-attend-geneva-peace-talks/28882668.html

Israel Vows To Destroy Iranian Positions Within 40 KM of Syrian Border

November 26, 2017
BY SHOSHANA KRANISH
 NOVEMBER 26, 2017 09:39

Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly offered Netanyahu a comprehensive deal that would include a demilitarized zone stretching 40 kilometers from the border.

Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks overlooking the border between Israel and Syria

Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks overlooking the border between Israel and Syria. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida revealed on Sunday that an Israeli source disclosed a promise from Jerusalem to destroy all Iranian facilities within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Israel’s Golan Heights.

The source, who remains unnamed, said that during Syrian President Bashar Assad’s surprise visit to Russia last week, Assad gave Russian Premier Vladimir Putin a message for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Damascus will agree to a demilitarized zone of up to 40 kilometers from the border in the Golan Heights as part of a comprehensive agreement between the two countries, but only if Israel does not work to remove Assad’s regime from power.

The report also claims that Putin then called Netanyahu to relay the message, and that the Israeli prime minister said he would be willing to accept the deal, but that Israel’s goal of eradicating Iran and Hezbollah from the country would remain.

According to the source, Jerusalem sees Assad as the last president of the Alawite community, indicating that a change of regime in Syria – at least towards a government less-linked to Iran – would be favorable for Israel. The Alawites are a minority Shi’ite community in Syria, and have long been supported by Iran, which seeks to extend its influence from the Gulf across the region to the Mediterranean.

The source also commented that after the defeat of the Islamic State, the conflict in Syria would become ”more difficult,” likely pointing towards a vacuum that would be left without the group. Russian, Syrian and Iranian-backed forces have been fighting against ISIS, while also seeking to knock out rebel groups that oppose the current regime. Russia’s stated interests have been in line with Iran’s in wanting to keep Assad in power.

Israel has participated mostly on the periphery of the war in Syria, responding to fire on the northern border and occasionally bombing positions, including a weapons depot and scientific research center that allegedly produces chemical weapons. Damascus and Jerusalem have exchanged heated remarks as well, with Netanyahu threatening to bomb Assad’s palace, and Syrian officials warning of ‘‘dangerous repercussions” to Israeli strikes on Syrian targets.

Over the course of the war, Israel has operated several field hospitals near the Syrian border, where those injured from the war are treated and subsequently returned to Syria. Some of those who have been treated have been rebels fighting against the Assad regime, leading some to say that Israel is assisting the rebels to unseat Assad.

Yasser Okbi contributed to this report. 

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Russia says progress made with Japan towards cooperation on disputed islands

November 24, 2017

AFP

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday progress had been made on confidence-building measures related to a territorial dispute between Moscow and Tokyo.

Japan-Russia security talks seen symbolic, may only benefit Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Japan

The measures focused on easing access for Japanese visitors to the disputed islands in the Pacific, known in Russia as the Kurile Islands and in Japan as the Northern Territories, and boosting economic cooperation in the islands. Lavrov was speaking after talks in Moscow with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Peter Graff

See also:

Japan-Russia security talks seen symbolic, may only benefit Moscow

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/21/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-russia-security-talks-seen-symbolic-may-benefit-moscow/#.Whf1hUqnGUk

Trump Revealed Israeli Commando and Mossad Operation in Syria to Russians

November 23, 2017

Trump allegedly disclosed an undercover Israeli mission to penetrate an Islamic State cell developing bombs that could go through airports undetected

Haaretz — Nov 23, 2017 7:43 AM

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Image may contain: 3 people, suit and outdoor

U.S. President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017 JORGE SILVA/REUTERS

When U.S. President Donald Trump revealed Israeli intelligence to senior Russian officials in March, he disclosed details of a covert Israeli mission to penetrate an Islamic State cell deep in Syria, said reports in Vanity Fair on Wednesday.

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Israel’s counterterrorism unit, working along with members of the Mossad, obtained information that a Syrian Islamic State cell had developed bombs that could be placed in laptops and then go through airport security undetected. Trump allegedly gave this information to the Russian officials.

According to the report, this discovery prompted the Trump administration as well as the British authorities to ban laptops and other electronics on airplanes until airports could comply with more strict security guidelines.

Trump reportedly passed the intelligence to the Russians without first notifying and discussing the decision with Israeli principals. According to Vanity Fair, this violation of U.S.-Israeli trust implicated the larger Middle East, as Israel assumed Russia would pass this intelligence information to their allies: the Iranians.

read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.824545

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