Posts Tagged ‘Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’

Can Israeli Diplomacy Pull Its Weight With Russia, Iran and Syria?

November 16, 2017
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BY CHARLES BYBELEZER/THE MEDIA LINE
 NOVEMBER 16, 2017 09:28

 

While Jerusalem’s voice is heard, its positions are often not fully taken into account.

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IDF soldiers near the border with Syria in the Golan Heights . (photo credit:REUTERS)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent shockwaves through Jerusalem on Tuesday when for the first time he publicly rebuffed Israel’s demand that Iran not be permitted to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria.

While discussing the recent ceasefire agreement for southern Syria brokered by Moscow, the United States and Jordan, Lavrov contended that it did not include a Russian commitment—contrary to American assurances—to prevent Iranian-backed fighters from operating in the Syrian Golan Heights close to the Israeli border. He further stressed that Russia had never promised to limit Tehran’s influence in Syria, which he described as legitimate.

“No one mentioned Iran or pro-Iranian forces,” Lavrov told reporters in reference to the formulation of the truce. “If we talk about pro-Iranian forces, somebody might be tempted to call the entire Syrian army pro-Iranian, and then what—it should surrender? In my opinion, it is wishful thinking.”

Israel has long pressed Moscow, the leading player in the conflict since militarily intervening on behalf of the Assad regime in September 2015, to create a buffer zone of up to 50 km in the Syrian Golan Heights in which Shi’ite proxies supported by Tehran would be banned. While a joint American-Russian statement announcing the deal called for “the reduction and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the [border region],” Jerusalem fears that such will only apply to radical Sunni rebels battling regime forces, as, in principle, Assad does not consider Iranian-backed troops as “foreign” given their role in effectively saving the Syrian leader.

News of the ceasefire deal came after the BBC published satellite photos purportedly showing the construction of an Iranian military base in Al-Kiswah, located just 14 kilometers south of Damascus. Israel has repeatedly conducted air strikes in both Lebanese and Syrian air space targeting such installations as well as arms convoys destined for Hezbollah, some confirmed by Jerusalem and others reported by foreign media.

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This comes on the backdrop of recent confrontations in which the Syrian army targeted Israeli warplanes conducting cross-border missions, and late last month fired five rockets into Israel in what Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman described as a deliberate act carried out by a Hezbollah cell at the directive of the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.
In response, the Israeli army struck three Syrian artillery positions, bringing into stark focus the fact that forces loyal to Iran and President Bashar Assad—who according to Liberman green-lighted the missile barrage—remain entrenched along the border.

Accordingly, Jerusalem finds itself on a potential collision course with Moscow, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in the wake of Lavrov’s comments that the Jewish state will continue to act militarily in Syria when necessary in order to uphold its security. “[Iran] want[s] to create a permanent air, land and sea military presence, with the declared intent of using Syria as a base from which to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu affirmed. “We are not going to agree to that.… Israel will work to stop this.”

According to Danny Ayalon, Israel’s former deputy foreign minister, the most important consideration is not whether Israel has a seat at the negotiating table but, rather, that it is able to defend its red lines. “Israel is certainly a major player and is treated as such,” he explained to The Media Line, “and the fact that it was not pulled into the Syrian chaos is a testimony to the very responsible leadership by the prime minister, due to the country’s deterrent capability as well as its close coordination with Russia.”

“However, when it comes to a demilitarized zone along the Syrian border,” he continued, “it is a must because any modicum of stability there requires that Israel’s interests be taken into account and this was specifically and strongly conveyed to our best friend in Washington and our new friend in Moscow.”

In this respect, it is no coincidence that a high-ranking delegation from the US National Security Council arrived in Israel this week to discuss Jerusalem’s concerns over the truce deal.

Daniel Shek, a former Israeli Ambassador to France agrees that “Israel’s positions were partially taken into account in Syria, but that deal leaves Jerusalem in a position where it will have to be vigilant and cautious over a long period of time.

“On the other hand,” he elaborated to The Media Line, “the whole Syrian situation is still so unsettled that Israel should probably wait and see what the end result is.”

For his part, Ayalon believes that Israel’s capacity to “defend itself, by itself” has factored into the overall equation. “There are many opposing interests in Syria and the situation is convoluted but if Israel sees Hezbollah or Iran assuming a permanent role in the Golan then there will be grave circumstances and the others know this.”

Nevertheless, the limits of Jerusalem’s diplomatic influence on issues that pit world powers against each other are evident. And while the Israeli government presses its case, at times its concerns are seemingly an afterthought in the process of forging agreements to its exclusion, but which otherwise affect it directly. This is true both for the recent ceasefire in Syria, as well as Netanyahu’s failed intensive campaign against the Iran nuclear deal.

As regards the latter initiative, former US Secretary of State John Kerry revealed last week that Israel appealed to the Obama administration to attack Iranian nuclear sites. Speaking to the London-based Chatham House think tank, Kerry stressed that “every leader I met with in the region…[including then-Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak, personally, to my face, said, ‘You have to bomb Iran, that is the only thing they understand [there] and that is the only way you will stop them [from] having a nuclear weapon.’”

Despite Netanyahu’s efforts to this effect, Washington promoted and eventually reached an accord with Tehran that has left its nuclear infrastructure intact.

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Shek, however, contended to The Media Line that this was the result of Israel sidelining itself: “Netanyahu didn’t want a deal at all and therefore attempts to include Jerusalem in the conversation were virtually rejected. Even so, some of the positions of Israel were still taken into account,” he explained.

Kerry’s comments came just days before Netanyahu addressed the same forum, during which he again slammed the atomic agreement as a cover for Iran to eventually produce more than 100 nuclear weapons while continuing to sow regional strife. The Israeli premier, who publicly sparred with Kerry and then-US President Barack Obama over America’s approach to Iran, urged signatories to the deal to modify aspects of it in order to address Tehran’s ongoing ballistic missile program—which contravenes United Nations Security Council resolutions but not the nuclear agreement itself—as well as the so-called “sunset” clauses that will allow the Islamic Republic to freely advance its atomic activities once the accord expires.

As it turns out, the Trump administration appears more amenable to Netanyahu’s positions, but this is likely attributable to the US president’s own beliefs rather than the result of pressure applied by Jerusalem. A sympathetic Oval Office does not guarantee any shift at the State Department or greater resolve in Congress.

This tension is clearly evident in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; specifically, with regard to the construction of Jewish homes across the 1967 borders’ further complicated by the fact that Netanyahu was once an ardent opponent of Palestinian statehood, prior to his now-infamous speech at Israel’s Bar Ilan University in 2009, where he endorsed the concept for the first time. The move not coincidentally coincided with the election of then-US President Barack Obama, who revived the moribund peace process into a central tenet of his foreign policy.

In this regard, Shek maintains that “Israel has independence and maneuverability and boxes above its [weight] class in the global arena. Israeli diplomacy is extremely present on the international scene specifically on regional issues. But there is a virtual worldwide consensus that opposes some of Israel’s positions, especially concerning the territories in the West Bank.”

By contrast, Ayalon stressed to The Media Line that with respect to the Palestinians, Israel has often acted in accordance with its interests, given that that the international community has never had the country’s back. “David Ben Gurion said it best,” he concluded, “it is not important what others say but what Israel does. And had [the Jewish state] succumbed to foreign pressure over the years it would not be here today.”

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Netanyahu described Israel as an emerging super power, and while Jerusalem has certainly matured into a regional player, it appears that the Israeli premier’s statements were somewhat exaggerated.

“Israel is not powerful enough to do everything on its own and even if it was this is not a wise position to take,” Shek affirmed. “An ongoing and healthy fruitful relationship with a number of allies is a prerequisite for maintaining Jerusalem’s position in the present and future. At the end of the day, there will be things that the country will have to do on its own, but that is not a desirable position.”When asked whether it harms Israel that Netanyahu has for more than two years acted a de facto foreign minister, Shek retorted, “I believe it harms the country more that we have no foreign policy.”

That said, it is one thing for Israel to have the ear of world capitals and have potentially ambiguous or non-conventional policies rejected; it is quite another issue to nevertheless be able to take matters into one’s hands when necessary. Walking this tightrope is Israel’s lot, especially when Syria may be the next theater in which the interplay of this dynamic will be staged and where having the ear of our very few allies may prove definitive.

For more stories from The Media Line, go to http://www.themedialine.org 

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Israel Will Not Allow Syria To Become An Iranian Outpost

November 15, 2017

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BY ANNA AHRONHEIM

NOVEMBER 15, 2017 15:33

Liberman was responding to comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said that Iranian presence in Syria was “legitimate.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Israel's northern border, November 2017

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Israel’s northern border, November 2017. (photo credit:ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded Wednesday to comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Iran’s presence in Syria was legitimate, warning that the Jewish State maintains freedom of action in Syria and will not allow Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.

“We maintain absolute freedom of action and the only considerations that guide us are the security considerations of Israel,” he said at the end of a two-day tour in northern Israel.

“With regards to Iran, we will simply not allow for Shi’ite consolidation and Iranian entrenchment in Syria nor will we allow Syria to become a forward operating base against the State of Israel. Anyone who has yet to understand that is advised to do so.”

Liberman was responding to comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said that Iranian presence in Syria was “legitimate.” Lavrov was quoted by RIA as saying that Russia never promised the United States that Iran and Iranian-backed forces would withdraw from Syria.

As an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow finds itself as part of an alliance between Damascus and Tehran, the patron of Hezbollah. Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role that the Islamic Republic plays in the war-torn country.

Liberman visited the northern border Wednesday accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Northern Command Chief Maj.-Gen.Yoel Strick and the commanders of the Bashan and Galilee Division.

On Tuesday Liberman accused the Ministry of Finance of stalling to fund the implementation of a 2014 government decision to increase protection for the Homefront, especially for communities in the north, which he said were severely lacking compared to southern Israel.

“We are dealing with a matter that is ‘net life’” the defense minister said, urging local authorities to demand that the government implement decisions taken in 2014 to allocate NIS 150 million annually for 10 years in order close the protection gaps throughout the country.

The border area with Lebanon has been flagged by the IDF as vulnerable to enemy infiltrations has seen 9 infiltrations since since 2009, including one in April where a man was able to cross into Israel from Lebanon and walked to the central bus station of Kiryat Shmona, about 10 kilometers from the border fence.

The IDF believes that during the next war with Hezbollah, it will see the terror group try to bring the fight to the home front by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

The border fence with Lebanon has been upgraded several times since it was originally built in the 1980s, including in October when a 29 kilometers stretch was upgraded with engineered barriers, including reinforced concrete panels of several feet high, concrete blocks and fortified watchtowers. The IDF has also created obstacles such as a man-made cliff and high concrete barriers to help prevent any attacks by Hezbollah.

Along with a new six meter high steel and barbed wire “smart fence” stretching several kilometers with information collection centers and warning systems being built along two stretches of the Lebanese border and new fortified shelters including bus stops have been constructed along the Lebanese and Syrian borders.

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Liberman-We-will-not-allow-Syria-to-become-an-Iranian-outpost-514320

Russia’s Lavrov says allegations of meddling in Catalonia hysteria: Ifax

November 15, 2017

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday dismissed allegations that Moscow had fomented separatist sentiment in Spain’s Catalonia as hysteria, the Interfax news agency reported.

Spanish ministers said on Monday they believed Russian-based groups used online social media to heavily promote Catalonia’s independence referendum last month in an attempt to destabilize Spain.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Maria Kiselyova

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Russia denies postponing Syria peace conference

November 7, 2017

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Russia on Tuesday denied postponing a Syria peace conference while not confirming an earlier announced date of Nov. 18, after the plan gained a cool reception from Turkey and its Western allies.

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“This congress is being prepared now,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday.
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“No one has postponed it because the date of the congress has not been officially announced,” he added.
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Russia pledged during talks in Kazakhstan last week to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents together for a “congress” to push peace efforts in the city of Sochi on Nov. 18.
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Then on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the Kremlin had told Ankara it was postponing the event.
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Lavrov in Russia’s first public reaction since then said Moscow was in touch with Turkey, Iran, the Gulf nations and other countries to determine the conference’s agenda and date.
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He said Moscow was also in contact with the Syrian regime and a range of opposition forces as well as the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
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Lavrov said some opposition groups had refused to hold negotiations with Bashar Assad’s regime, but added that the “feedback is rather positive.”
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Russia last week unveiled its initiative to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents to the negotiating table in Sochi after peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana failed to gain much traction.
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The Astana talks have run in parallel to negotiations held in Geneva with the backing of the UN. The fate of Assad remains a huge stumbling block, preventing global players from reaching a peace settlement over Syria.
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Lavrov said Tuesday that global players should redouble efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the six-year war as the Syrian regime edges closer to victory after a string of Daesh’s losses.
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“As far as the Syrian conflict is concerned, the political process is becoming ever more important,” he said.
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“The fight against terror in Syria is coming to an end. There shouldn’t be any breaks in the efforts of the international community.”
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‘War does not end in Deir Ezzor’
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Syrian President Bashar Assad said the victories of the Syrian army and its allies against terrorist organizations do not end in Deir Ezzor province where Daesh has its last significant stronghold, his office reported on Tuesday.
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In a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Assad said the war waged by his military and its allies also targets those seeking to “divide and weaken states.”
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Iran nuclear deal should be preserved: Russia

October 6, 2017

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

ASTANA (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday he hoped U.S. President Donald Trump would make a “balanced” decision on whether to remain engaged in the international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

“It is very important to preserve it in its current form and of course the participation of the United States will be a very significant factor in this regard,” Lavrov told reporters on a visit to Kazakhstan.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions that had crippled its economy.

Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the deal, a senior White House official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel.

Trump, who has called the pact an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever negotiated”, has been weighing whether it serves U.S. security interests as he faces an Oct. 15 deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with its terms.

If Trump declines to certify Iran’s compliance, U.S. congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.

Russia and Saudi Arabia ‘sign $3bn arms deal’ as King Salman visit shows how much relations have changed

October 6, 2017

Sergei Lavrov calls it ‘a real turning point’. For Saudi Arabia, King Salman says, Russia is ‘a friendly country’

By Oliver Carroll Moscow

The Independent 

A faulty golden aircraft escalator and anger from Moscow’s elite about a 200-strong Saudi retinue taking over all the city’s 5-star hotels failed to dampen the fanfare accompanying King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on his first state visit to Russia. Met with an honour guard of dignitaries and the Preobrazhensky military orchestra, the Saudi king was sped along on a highway specially lined with billboards advertising the visit and a week-long festival of Saudi culture.

This was a big deal for Russia – with multi-billion energy and defence contracts in the balance – and it wanted King Salman to know.

Ahead of the visit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the event as “an historical moment”. At the summit in the Kremlin on Thursday, Vladimir Putin agreed: This was a “landmark event” that would provide a “boost” to relations. And King Salman returned the compliments. Russia was “a friendly country,” he said.

According to the Kommersant newspaper, agreement has already been reached on a $3bn (£2.2bn) deal to supply the Saudis with Russia’s most advanced air defence missile system, the S400 Triumph. According to the publication, the deal will be signed off at a WTO meeting at the end of October. There may be other deals forthcoming on aircraft and helicopters – that depending on the success of talks.

Defence is one of few technological sectors where Russia can still claim to be a world leader, with over a fifth of all arms deals in 2016. But with China and India, Russia’s biggest markets, looking to move towards military self-sufficiency, Russia is with increasing urgency looking to open new markets.

The Saudi partnership comes at the end of several years of courtship – and off the back of a tetchy relationship.

Russia first announced that it had brokered a $20m (£15m) deal back in 2012. But that deal had several strings attached, namely a demand that the Kremlin could not sell the C-300 missile system to Iran, the Saudis’ major regional rivals. Then, President Putin looked the other way, signing off on a new arms contract with Tehran worth $1bn (£762m).

That move underlined the historical distrust between the two countries. The Saudis have been accused for supporting anti-Russian insurgency – whether in mujahedeens against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, or Wahhabist Islamic groups in Chechnya and Dagestan. The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s rascal president and keen promoter of rival Sufism ideology, at talks in the Kremlin served as a reminder of those differences.

Most recently, Russian operations in Syria have put it in direct conflict with Saudi interests. The Saudis remain opposed to Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is being supported by Russian military power. The gulf kingdom, on its part, is also believed to be funding rebel groups opposed to al-Assad.

But while the sides remain some way from a common position, the Independent has learned negotiators believe progress on de-escalation zones may be made.

“The Saudis have lost interest and realise that Russia now owns the crisis,” says Yuri Barmin, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council. “They see how the balance of power is changing in the region: how the US is pulling out and how Russia is now increasing its influence in the Middle East.”

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The Boeing 747 carrying Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrives in Moscow’s Vnukovo II airport (EPA)

Russia’s geopolitical march in the region has made a highly improbable state visit possible. But the timing of the talks has little to do with Syria. Instead, King Salman is believed to be in Moscow to shore up international support for his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, next in line to the throne.

“King Salman wants Russia’s backing for his son,” says Mr Barmin. “Bin Salman is poorly perceived at home over his role in the unpopular Yemen war and the blockade of Qatar.”

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 S-400

For Russia the stakes are even higher. Hamstrung by Western sanctions and uncompetitive industry, it hopes the new bonhomie will provide impetus to its struggling economy.

On Wednesday, President Putin hinted that there would likely be further cooperation to lift the oil price, the lifeblood of the Russian economy. Ministers also made it clear that they hope the Saudi delegation will deliver on investment from the kingdom’s sovereign wealth funds.

So far, the record on Saudi investment is poor. Of $10bn (£7bn) promised to Russia in 2015, only $1billion has actually ever materialised.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-king-salman-visit-saudi-arabia-moscow-vladimir-putin-a7985161.html

Russia Accuses U.S. of ‘Deadly Provocations’ Against Russian Troops in Syria — “Two-faced policy” of the United States

October 4, 2017

MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused the United States and its allies of orchestrating “deadly provocations” against Russian troops in Syria.

Moscow has complained about what it has says are suspiciously friendly ties between U.S.-backed militias, U.S. special forces, and Islamic State in Syria and accused Washington of trying to slow the advance of the Syrian army.

“There are a lot of questions to U.S.-led forces in Syria,” Lavrov told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published on Wednesday.

“Either they accidentally bomb Syrian troops after which Islamic State militants launch an offensive, or they get other terrorists to attack strategically important objects … or they stage deadly provocations against our military servicemen.”

Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, said last week that the “two-faced policy” of the United States was to blame for the death of Russian Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov in Syria, something Washington flatly denied.

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Asapov was killed by Islamic State shelling.

Lavrov also said on Wednesday that the United States and the coalition it leads were “unwelcome guests” in Syria from the point of view of international law and accused Washington of “dividing terrorists into bad and no so bad ones”.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

South Korea braces for possible new missile test to mark North’s founding day

September 9, 2017

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South Korean marines take part in a military exercise on South Korea¡¯s Baengnyeong Island, near the disputed sea border with the north, September 7, 2017. Choi Jae-gu/Yonhap via REUTERS Reuters

By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea braced for a possible further missile test by North Korea as it marked its founding anniversary on Saturday, just days after its sixth and largest nuclear test rattled global financial markets and further escalated tensions in the region.

Throughout the week, South Korean officials have warned the North could launch another intercontinental ballistic missile, in defiance of U.N. sanctions and amid an escalating standoff with the United States.

Pyongyang marks its founding anniversary each year with a big display of pageantry and military hardware. Last year, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on the Sept. 9 anniversary.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has escalated as North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has stepped up the development of weapons, testing a string of missiles this year, including one flying over Japan, and conducting its sixth nuclear test on Sunday.

Experts believe the isolated regime is close to its goal of developing a powerful nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, something U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent.

Celebrating its founding anniversary, a front-page editorial of the Saturday edition of North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun said the country should make “more high-tech Juche weapons to continuously bring about big historical events such as a miraculous victory of July 28.”. The July date refers to the intercontinental ballistic missile test.

Juche is North Korea’s homegrown ideology of self-reliance that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.

South Korean nuclear experts, checking for contamination, said on Friday they had found minute traces of radioactive xenon gas but that it was too early to link it to Sunday’s explosion.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) said it had been conducting tests on land, air and water samples since shortly after the North Korean nuclear test on Sunday.

Xenon is a naturally occurring, colourless gas that is used in manufacturing of some sorts of lights. But the NSSC said it had detected xenon-133, a radioactive isotope that does not occur naturally and which has in the past been linked to North Korea’s nuclear tests.

There was no chance the xenon “will have an impact on South Korea’s territory or population”, the agency said.

Trump has repeatedly said all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea and on Thursday said he would prefer not to use military action, but if he did, it would be a “very sad day” for North Korea.

“Military action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable,” Trump told reporters. “If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”

Even as Trump has insisted that now is not the time to talk, senior members of his administration have made clear that the door to a diplomatic solution is open, especially given the U.S. assessment that any pre-emptive strike would unleash massive North Korean retaliation.

North Korea says it needs its weapons to protect itself from U.S. aggression and regularly threatens to destroy the United States.

South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

US CARRIER ON THE MOVE

The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered carrier, left its home port in Japan for a routine autumn patrol of the Western Pacific, a Navy spokeswoman said. That area included waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula, she added, without giving any further details.

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USS Ronald Reagan

The Ronald Reagan was out on routine patrol from May until August, and was sent to the Sea of Japan with the another carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, to take part in drills with Japan’s Self Defense Forces as well as the South Korean military.

North Korea vehemently objects to military exercises on or near the peninsula, and China and Russia have suggested the United States and South Korea halt their exercises to lower tension.

While Trump talked tough on North Korea, China agreed on Thursday that the United Nations should take more action against it, but it also pushed for dialogue.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on a new set of sanctions soon. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that it was too early to draw conclusions about the final form of the U.N. resolution, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying at a news conference on Friday.

The United States on Friday told the U.N. Security Council that it intends to call a meeting on Monday to vote on a draft resolution establishing additional sanctions on North Korea for its missile and nuclear program, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said in a statement.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said last Monday that she intended to call for a vote on Sept. 11 and then the United States circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member council on Wednesday.

The United States wants the Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban its exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, and to subject Kim Jong Un to an asset freeze and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear how North Korean allies China and Russia would vote, but a senior U.S. official on Friday night expressed scepticism that either nation would accept anything more stringent than a ban on imports of North Korean textiles.

Chinese officials have privately expressed fears that imposing an oil embargo could risk triggering massive instability in its neighbor.

North Korea offered fresh vitriol against the pending sanctions, specifically targeting Haley, who this week accused Kim of “begging for war”.

“There is nothing more foolish than thinking we, a strong nuclear state, will endure this evil pressure aimed at overthrowing our state,” the North’s official news agency said in a commentary.

“Even if Nikki Haley is blind, she must use her mouth correctly. The United States administration will pay for not being able to control the mouth of their U.N. representative.”

China is by far North Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 92 percent of two-way trade last year. It also provides hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil and fuel to the impoverished regime.

China’s economic influence has been felt by South Korea as well. The two countries have been at loggerheads over South Korea’s decision to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which has a powerful radar that can probe deep into China.

Shares in South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor  and key suppliers slid on Friday on worries over its position in China after highly critical Chinese state newspaper comments.

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THAAD missile launcher for ballistic missile defense

The military section of China’s Global Times newspaper on Thursday referred to THAAD as “a malignant tumor”.

(Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo in TOKYO, Hyunjoo Jin and Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Christian Lowe in MOSCOW; and Michelle Nichols in UNITED NATIONS; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel, Mary Milliken & Shri Navaratnam)

Russia urges against ’emotions’ over North Korea (Putin working overtime to save China from North Korea crisis)

September 5, 2017

AFP

© KCNA VIA KNS/AFP | World powers are scrambling to react to the latest advance in the North’s rogue weapons programme, which has sent global tensions soaring

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday spoke out against “giving in to emotions” amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme, in phone talks with his US counterpart, Moscow said.Lavrov “noted that a choice should be made in favour of political and diplomatic efforts to look for a peaceful settlement,” Russia’s foreign ministry said after he spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

It added that Lavrov “urged against giving in to emotions”.

Lavrov “vigorously spoke out against an escalation of military tensions in Northeast Asia,” the ministry said.

World powers are scrambling to react to the latest advance in the North’s rogue nuclear weapons programme, which has sent global tensions soaring.

The United States is planning to circulate as early as Tuesday a draft sanctions resolution in response to North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Lavrov said that Russia is ready to consider it, the ministry said.

At the same time, the avoidance of a military solution to the crisis “should be reflected in the reaction of the international community,” the statement said.

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin warned earlier Tuesday of a global catastrophe unless a diplomatic solution is reached over North Korea and rejected US calls for more sanctions as “useless”, widening a split among major powers over how to rein in Pyongyang.

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China and Russia are working against the U.S.

Qatar and Russia to bolster economic ties — Qatar Officially Part of The Russia, China, Iran Alliance

August 30, 2017

Two of the world’s largest energy producers have vowed to increase trade relations. Qatar is under pressure amid an economic boycott by neighboring Gulf states over its alleged support of terrorism.

Katar Doha - Sergey Lavrov und Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (Reuters/N. Zeitoon)

Qatar and Russia announced the new agreement, which will see closer trade ties, during a visit by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the Gulf Nation on Wednesday.

Lavrov made the commitment after a meeting in Doha with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

The Russian foreign minister told reporters that Moscow “attached great importance” to economic and energy cooperation between the two countries.

Sheikh Mohammed, for his part, said Qatar could no longer rely on neighboring states to support its economy or guarantee food security.

The two nations are among the world’s top oil and gas producing countries.

Last year, Qatar bought a stake worth billions in Russia’s state-controlled oil company, Rosneft.

Read more – What is the Qatar crisis?

Qatar is looking to expand its economic relations after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirate severed diplomatic and trade ties with the Gulf nation in June.

The Arab countries accused Qatar of destabilizing the region by supporting “terrorists,” a charge dismissed by Doha.

The diplomatic rift, aimed at isolating Qatar, has disrupted supply chains and affected flow of goods into the tiny emirate.

Read – Qatar resumes full diplomatic ties with Iran

‘Arab allies not willing to negotiate’

With no signs of tensions easing, Sheikh Mohammed said his country was willing to negotiate an end to the diplomatic crisis, but had seen no sign that Saudi Arabia and its allies were open to mediation.

“Qatar maintains its position that this crisis can only be achieved through a constructive dialogue … but the blockading counties are not responding to any efforts being conducted by Kuwait or other friendly countries,” the Qatari Foreign Minister told reporters at a news conference with his Russian counterpart.

Lavrov – who has also visited Kuwait and the UAE as part of his Middle East tour – called for all parties to find a solution.

Read – Beyond Libya: Russia’s strategy in the Middle East

He said if face-to-face negotiations started, Russia would be ready to contribute to the mediation.

“It’s in our interests for the GCC to be united and strong,” the Russian top diplomat said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Russia has long sought to establish itself as a major player in the region’s affairs, most notably in Syria’s six-year civil war, where it backs President Bashar al-Assad.

ap/kms (AFP, Reuters)

 http://www.dw.com/en/qatar-and-russia-to-bolster-economic-ties/a-40299911
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A Iranian woman walks past a wall painting in the shape of Iranian flag in Tehran, Iran on the first anniversary of nuclear deal between Iran and world powers on January 16, 2017.
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Iran has boasted about its ballistic missiles, many of which are on mobile launchers

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© Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/File / by Ali Choukeir | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 30, 2017 shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) receiving prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah

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