Posts Tagged ‘Sergei 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)



Israel May Demand Iran Leave Southern Syria, but Russia Sets the Rules of the Game

November 17, 2017

For Moscow, the presence of Iranian troops is legitimate – Assad himself invited them

Amos Harel Nov 17, 2017 8:13 AM

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Russian President Vladimir Putin greets his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad upon his arrival at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015. AFP

A single brief statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday cleared up the strategic picture in southern Syria and the entire region. Three days after the signing of the agreement between Russia, the United States and Jordan about the cease-fire arrangements there, Lavrov disavowed the section of the accord that says foreign forces will be kept out of Syrian territory. Iran’s presence in Syria is legitimate, he said, and therefore Russia did not promise to compel the Iranians to withdraw their forces from the country.

This claim by Moscow, which also applies to the Russian forces there, rests on Iran and Russia having been invited into Syria by the Assad regime. This invitation by the Syrian sovereign ostensibly bestows legitimacy on the presence of these countries’ military forces in Syria, even with Russia conveniently ignoring the ongoing atrocities the Assad regime has been committing against its own citizens for the past six and a half years.

The only thing the Russians agreed to was a stipulation that the Iranians and the Shi’ite militias that answer to them would be kept five kilometers from the lines of contact with the rebels. For Israel, this means that the Iranians will be on the Golan Heights, just five to 10 kilometers from the border, depending on what areas are held by the rebels. This is the reason for Israel’s disappointment with the agreement, a feeling that has only intensified in the wake of Lavrov’s statement.

The Russian foreign minister’s statement contained another hidden message: Moscow will be the one that decides what happens in Syria. The total lack of an American response to Lavrov’s comments, so soon after State Department officials boasted at a press briefing about the section of the agreement regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces, proves yet again who’s really running the show in Syria.

The reason for Russian support of Iran, despite Russia’s generally close and positive ties with Israel, is simple: The Iranians, and especially their Hezbollah proxies, are providing the Russians and the Assad regime with the ground forces upon which the regime’s survival hinges. Keeping the current regime in power is mission number one for the Russians, because that way they can maintain all the advantages – an image of power, a Mediterranean seaport at Tartus, potential trade deals – inherent in an Assad victory. Russia does not intervene or protest when Israel reportedly bombs a Hezbollah weapons convoy in Syria (as long as the airstrike doesn’t harm Russian troops), but is has no reason to exert itself to meet all of Israel’s demands about keeping the Iranians out of Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Israel is not bound by the tripartite agreement, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman repeated his warning that Israel will not sit back and allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria nor let Syria become a forward position against Israel, adding, “Whoever hasn’t understood this yet would do well to understand it.”

What do the Israeli warnings refer to specifically? Brigadier General (res.) Assaf Orion, a senior scholar at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank and former head of the IDF General Staff strategy department, says Iran has been waging war on Israel for some decades now via proxies. “But now, for the first time, the Iranians appear to be preparing to put in significant infrastructure in Syria – army bases, a seaport, weapons manufacturing plants, permanent military forces. When Israel says it won’t accept this, it is trying to dictate new rules of the game. More so than in the past, for Israel the northern front has become one long continuous front in which the border between Syria and Lebanon is completely blurred. We’ll have to ask ourselves: When exactly does the moment come when we respond?”

This week, Britain’s The Guardian offered a perceptive description of the Middle East mood. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s announcement of his resignation, under Saudi pressure, sparked tension throughout the region that links seemingly unrelated events. In fact, these various undercurrents have been moving for some time, and now they have risen to the surface.

The paper’s Middle East analyst, Martin Chulov, connects the dots between Hariri’s resignation, the Iraq-Iran takeover of Kirkuk on the Kurdistan border, the purges in Saudi Arabia, the famine afflicting millions due to Yemen’s civil war, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels firing a missile at the Riyadh airport. All of these things, he writes, are manifestations of a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that is now reaching a peak all across the area between Beirut and Sanaa.

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Shia Crescent

The multi-pronged Saudi move – involvement in wars in Syria and Yemen, political maneuvers in Lebanon, efforts to isolate Qatar, efforts to limit the influence of extremist Wahhabi clerics, the plans to build a colossal “city of the future,” the IPO of oil company Aramco, along with many other ambitious initiatives – is being overseen by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Assaf Orion believes the prince “has got too many balls in the air. It’s a systems overload that requires extraordinary command and control in tandem with long-term planning. I’m not sure the prince can sustain it without dropping any of the balls.”

To an outside observer, Saudi Arabia calls to mind what Churchill called Russia – “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The series of moves set in motion by the crown prince, particularly the resignation that was forced upon Hariri, was met with some surprise in Israel, elsewhere in the region and in the West. Israeli military experts are also skeptical of the Saudis’ ability to advance their goals with their military capacity. Despite the purchase of billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry from the U.S. and other countries, the Saudis have performed poorly in combat in Yemen. And they have played a fairly minor part in the international coalition’s fight against ISIS. The Saudis’ big plans have to fully come up against hard reality, and when it does happen, the encounter is liable to be painful.

Gaza unstable

As far as security goes, a threat of escalation on the Gaza border hung over the country this week. The security assessment was that Islamic Jihad would try to stage a reprisal for the destruction of the attack tunnel in late October in which 12 operatives from Islamic Jihad and Hamas were killed. Here, the prime minister and defense minister warned of a severe response while simultaneously taking practical steps, including the deployment of Iron Dome missile defense systems in the center of the country. The decision to quickly deploy the missile defense batteries was dictated to the army at the cabinet meeting by Netanyahu. The cabinet ministers backed Netanyahu’s action, saying he was entitled to put wider safety margins in place when the situation could rapidly deteriorate.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza did not immediately respond to the killing of its men, apparently because of moves by Hamas and, according to Palestinian sources, by Egypt too, to restrain it. Shortly after the tunnel strike, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas began implementing their reconciliation agreement and PA police officers were stationed at the border crossings between Gaza and Israel for the first time in a decade.

But things have gotten more complicated since then. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in no rush to transfer the money that he promised to Hamas to pay civil servants’ wages and to upgrade the electricity supply.


The reopening of the Rafah crossing, the main avenue of departure from Gaza, is also being held up due to disputes between the parties. Under these circumstances, Hamas has less motivation to rein in Islamic Jihad. Things could get even worse if the entire reconciliation process gets stuck and Hamas goes looking for someone to blame for Gazans’ disappointed hopes of an improvement in their harsh living conditions.

Saudi Arabia has its fingers in the pie here, too. Two weeks ago, at the height of the upheaval in the kingdom, Abbas was urgently summoned to Riyadh. After the visit, his spokesman said the two parties view the reconciliation agreement with Hamas “100 percent the same way.” Since then, the PA has sharpened its demand that Hamas completely cut off ties with Iran and that its military wing submit all of its weaponry to Ramallah’s authority. Abbas’s aggressive new posture, evidently inspired by Saudi prodding, is angering the Egyptians, who acted as the patrons of the reconciliation process.

Amos Harel
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Trump Says Putin Feels Insulted by Repeated Questions on Election Meddling

November 11, 2017

Leaders finalize aligned positions on Syria after meeting at APEC summit in Vietnam

U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had several conversations on Saturday in which they aligned their positions on Syria, and appeared to share skepticism about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to reporters for nearly 30 minutes on Air Force One, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Putin is becoming irritated by repeated questions about Russia’s interference in his electoral victory.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said on the flight from Da Nang to Hanoi. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

“There is nothing to investigate here,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted Mr. Putin as saying in Da Nang. “You can dig deeper in search of some sensation, but it’s not there.”

A report from the U.S. intelligence community in January concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the presidential election through a campaign of disinformation, data thefts and leaks. The report concluded that the effort was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump and damaging his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Top intelligence officials in the Trump administration—the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency—all testified in May that they accepted the conclusion of the report. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has questioned the findings.

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Messrs. Trump and Putin met briefly at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation plenary session when the U.S. president entered the room and walked to his Russian counterpart. The two stood shaking hands and spoke briefly before taking their respective seats.

Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Putin had “two or three conversations” during the summit in which they discussed the situation in Syria. The two countries later issued a joint statement that underscored how close Moscow and Washington’s positions have grown around the war-torn country.

“It’s going to save a tremendous numbers of lives and we did it very quickly, we agreed very quickly,” Mr. Trump said. “We seem to have a very good feeling for each other, a good relationship considering we don’t know each other well. I think it’s a very good relationship.”

Interfax reported the statement as saying, “The presidents agreed there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria.”

World leader at the 21-country summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Saturday. Photo: Klimentyev Mikhail/Zuma Press

Though the statement reiterated Washington and Moscow’s broad policies on the country, Syria appears to be one of the few arenas in which Messrs. Putin and Trump, both of whom have advocated better ties between Moscow and Washington, can make a show of cooperation. Mr. Trump is largely limited in expanding ties with Russia as Congress has expanded sanctions against the country for meddling in the election.

Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the agreement had been finalized in talks between the two leaders on the sidelines of the conference.

Mr. Peskov said the text of the statement had been worked out between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day.

In the sharpest break with the U.S.’s traditional tone on Syria, the statement noted the adherence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Geneva peace process, including constitutional reform and conditions for free and fair elections.

Unlike the previous U.S. administration, Mr. Trump has said Mr. Assad’s departure isn’t a precondition for starting peace talks. However, Mr. Trump personally authorized a volley of cruise missiles to strike a Syrian government base in April following a chemical weapons attack earlier this year.

Mr. Tillerson said last month that the reign of Mr. Assad’s family is coming to an end, adding “the only issue is how that should be brought about.

“He’s easy to talk to regarding cooperation.”

Mr. Trump, who returns to Washington on Wednesday after 10 days in Asia, said he believed it was a “great trip” so far. He touted his stamina—the entire trip, which started with a stop in Hawaii, will include 12 days away from Washington—and said he has improved relationships for the U.S. across Asia.

He said that Japan and South Korea, the first two countries he visited, are “now getting along much, much better.” He touted his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he met with on his third stop, and said the leader was “a strong person” and “very smart.”

Mr. Trump said he would like to see Mr. Xi put more pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program

“I’d like to have [Mr. Xi] ratchet it up,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think he’s doing that. We had a long talk about it.”

But Mr. Trump said he has great relationships with leaders around the world. Noting the 21-country summit in Da Nang that he participated in, Mr. Trump said he has “a great relationship with every single one of them.”

He said he has the “potential” to be as close to Mr. Putin as he is with Mr. Xi.

“I don’t know him like I know President Xi because I spent a lot of time with President Xi,” Mr. Trump said. “I think we have the potential to have a very, very good relationship.”

Mr. Putin said he and Mr. Trump had much to talk about regarding their bilateral relations and that opportunities must be found for dialogue.

“We don’t know each other well, but the president of the United States behaves highly appropriately,” Mr. Putin said. “He’s easy to talk to regarding cooperation.”

He also said that time for a separate meeting with Mr. Trump hadn’t been found because of protocol issues the teams of the two presidents failed to solve.

“They’ll be punished,” he said, referring to those responsible.

Write to Michael C. Bender at and Thomas Grove at

‘Not one piece of evidence’ Russia interfered in US elections: Lavrov

October 31, 2017
© AFP/File | Russia’s foreign minister said there was no evidence the country had interfered in US elections, after a Washington probe accelerated with charges against three former aides to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday said there was no evidence the country had interfered in US elections, after a Washington probe accelerated with charges against three former aides to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“We are accused of interfering not only in US elections but also in those of other countries without one piece of evidence,” Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

Russia has repeatedly denied any attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.

On Monday Trump’s ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and another former aide appeared in court, pleading not guilty to conspiracy against the US, money laundering and several other charges after the indictments in the Russia probe were unsealed.

Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to tell Congress this week that Russian-backed content aimed at manipulating US politics during last year’s election was more extensive than first thought, US media reported.

At a meeting of the Association of European Businesses, Lavrov also said that the “sometimes unpredictable” actions of the current US administration had caused “serious fears”.

He pointed to threats to solve problems over the Korean peninsula by force, as well as Trump’s refusal to certify the Iran nuclear deal.

China, Russia urge end to North Korea vicious cycle

September 19, 2017


© KCNA/AFP/File | North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location
NEW YORK (AFP) – The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers called for a peaceful end to the “vicious cycle” on the Korean peninsula as they met in New York for the UN General Assembly, Beijing said Tuesday.Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov urged all parties to seek a “peaceful resolution” to the current stand-off with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The Korean Peninsula nuclear problem must be solved through peaceful means,” it quoted Wang as saying, adding that “the current deepening vicious cycle must be broken”.

“Restoring peace talks is also a necessary step to carrying out the UN Security Council’s resolution,” he said.

Lavrov said Russia’s position on the issue is “completely identical” to China’s, the statement said.

Russia has joined China’s call for a “dual-track” approach in which North Korea suspends its weapons programme in return for the United States halting military drills in the region.

The White House said earlier that US President Donald Trump had spoken with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over the phone, saying the two leaders were “committed to maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions”.

Trump is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly but Xi — who has a major Communist Party congress next month that will cement his leadership for the next five years — is not attending the event.

The UN Security Council last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions, though Washington toned down its original proposals to secure support from China and Russia.

Regional tensions have soared this month as North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan.

Trump has not ruled out a military option for dealing with Pyongyang.

The US flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a show of force.

Separately, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise east of the Korean peninsula.

Russia, Turkey, Iran Close to Syria De-escalation Zones Deal

September 14, 2017

ASTANA — Russia, Turkey and Iran are close to finalizing an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria, a senior Russian negotiator said on Thursday.

The three sides are discussing details of the agreement at meetings in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Alexander Lavrentyev, who leads the Russian delegation, told reporters.

(Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov)



Zarif Meeting Russian Leadership In Sochi Ahead of Astana Talks

Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, attend a news conference in Moscow, April 14, 2017

Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, attend a news conference in Moscow, April 14, 2017

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is visiting Russia’s Black Sea resort town of Sochi on September 13 where he was expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Zarif’s talks with the Russian leadership would focus on the conflict in Syria as well as “the Middle East in general, issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, and the situation in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region.”

Zarif has not visited Russia since April, but high level Iranian officials have had frequent meetings with their Russian counterparts in Tehran and Moscow.

The meeting comes a day before the start of a sixth round of Syria peace talks in Astana that are sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey – negotiations that are separate from United Nations-sponsored talks in Geneva.
Experts from Russia, Turkey, and Iran arrived in Astana ahead of the two-day talks and were holding consultations there on September 13.

Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, and a Syrian government delegation also arrived in Kazakhstan’s capital on September 13 for the Astana talks, which will include representatives of some Syrian opposition groups and an observer mission from the United States.

The U.S. delegation is headed by David Satterfield, the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

The U.S. State Department said Satterfield would “reinforce U.S. support for all efforts to achieve a sustainable de-escalation of violence and provision of unhindered humanitarian aid.”

But it said Washington “remains concerned with Iran’s involvement as a so-called ‘guarantor’ of the Astana process.”

It says Iran’s “activities in Syria and unquestioning support” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government “have perpetuated the conflict and increased the suffering of ordinary Syrians.”

In recent weeks, Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concern about Iran’s presence in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited Russia six times since 2014 and held talk with President Vladimir Putin and other Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding Syria.

According to Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, meeting is expected to focus on how to regulate the operations of “de-escalation forces in Syria and formation of the control forces in Idlib” – a Syrian province bordering Turkey.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on September 10 that Moscow hopes agreements on a fourth de-escalation zone in Syria near the city of Idlib will be formalized at the meeting.

Russia media reports have quote senior Russian military officials as saying that Moscow wants Russian military police units to be deployed in Idlib to monitor a cease-fire.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Kazinform, TASS, Izvestia, and Interfax

Saudi Arabia vows pressure on Qatar until demands met during Russian FM Lavrov meeting

September 10, 2017


© AFP | Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (R) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov following a press conference at the ministry headquarters in Jeddah on September 10, 2017

JEDDAH (SAUDI ARABIA) (AFP) – Saudi Arabia said Sunday it would keep pressuring Qatar until demands by a bloc of Arab states are met, dampening hopes for a US-mediated resolution to a diplomatic crisis.”We will continue to take action and we will maintain our position until Qatar responds,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The bloc’s 13 demands include Doha ending its alleged support for Islamist extremist groups, closing a Turkish military base in the emirate and downgrading diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Qatar “must respond to these requests in order to open a new page,” Jubeir said.

The Saudi move came just two days after US President Donald Trump spoke with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in a bid to mediate.

Trump said he believed the dispute could be solved “fairly easily”.

The Saudi and Qatari rulers spoke by phone on Saturday, raising hope for talks.

But Riyadh later suspended the dialogue, accusing Doha of distorting facts by wrongly implying that Saudi Arabia had initiated the outreach.

A United Arab Emirates minister late Saturday voiced support for the Saudi decision on Twitter, accusing Qatar of “wasting an opportunity” to resolve the crisis.

“I hope that Doha will stop manoeuvring… and act transparently. There is no other way,” state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on his official Twitter account.

Saudi Arabia led the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of bankrolling extremist groups and of being too close to Riyadh’s regional arch-rival Tehran. Doha denies the accusations.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both key US allies.

Doha hosts a major US air base, home to the headquarters of Centcom — the regional command which leads operations against the Islamic State jihadist group.

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks on September 15, in what will be his first trip to a western capital since the crisis began.

UAE Criticizes ‘Colonial’ Role of Iran, Turkey in Syria

August 29, 2017

ABU DHABI — The United Arab Emirates urged Iran and Turkey on Monday to end what it called their “colonial” actions in Syria, signaling unease about diminishing Gulf Arab influence in the war.

Allied to regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, the UAE opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backer Iran, and is wary of Turkey, a friend of Islamist forces the UAE opposes throughout the Arab world.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan urged “the exit of those parties trying to reduce the sovereignty of the Syrian state, and I speak here frankly and clearly about Iran and Turkey.”

Image result for UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, photos

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan

He was speaking at a news conference with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whose country helps Assad militarily.

“If Iran and Turkey continue the same historical, colonial and competitive behavior and perspectives between them in Arab affairs, we will continue in this situation not just in Syria today but tomorrow in some other country,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

The six-year-old war in Syria has dragged in regional and international players who have sought to advance their interests there: Iran has sent troops and military support to shore up Assad’s rule as he has battled mostly Sunni Muslim rebels backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states.

The Syrian army and its allies have regained lost territory with the help of Russian air strikes since 2015. At the same time, Islamic State is being pushed back from strongholds in Eastern Syria by the Syrian army and a rival offensive by Kurdish and Arab rebels backed by the United States.

Fearing expanded Kurdish influence along its border with Syria, U.S. ally Turkey has grown increasingly uneasy about the rebels’ armed thrust.

Turkey and Iran have discussed possible joint military action against Kurdish militant groups, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Lavrov and Sheikh Abdullah said they agreed on a need for a negotiated end to the war. Russia is helping shepherd talks in the Kazakh capital Astana which has already produced “de-escalation” zones to reduce combat in three parts of Syria.

Lavrov said Russia hoped that efforts to unify the positions of Syria’s disparate opposition would aid the peace process.

“There were some deep disagreements in the past which led to the failure of some meetings, but we will continue encouraging the participation of all the platforms,” he said through a translator.

(Reporting by Noah Browning Editing by William Maclean and Jeremy Gaunt)

Libyan Military Strongman Haftar Visiting Russia

August 12, 2017

MOSCOW — Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar was due to arrive in Moscow on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, RIA news agency reported, citing a Russian negotiator.

Haftar is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, told RIA. It was not immediately clear what the pair would be discussing.

At the end of July, Haftar and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj committed during talks in France to a conditional ceasefire and to elections, but a Italian naval mission aimed to help the country curb migrant flows has fueled tension this month.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

It has rejected a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is struggling to assert authority over an array of armed factions which have been competing for control since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has held talks with Russian officials before and in January he was given a tour of a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The head of the U.N.-backed government visited Moscow in March, and the Kremlin said then it wanted to help repair the damage it said had been done by Western involvement in the country.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Tillerson says can settle problems with Russia, avoid damaging ties

August 7, 2017


AUGUST 6, 2017 / 11:15 PM

MANILA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday said the United States wants to work with Russia and it was pointless to cut off ties over their disagreements.

Discussing a meeting he held on Sunday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson told reporters that Russia had indicated “some willingness” to talk and find ways to move forward on the thorny issue of the Ukraine.

He said he saw U.S.-Russia relations pragmatically and believed problems could be addressed, and stressed to Lavrov that Russia needed to understand that meddling in elections was a very serious issue.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Perry


Rex Tillerson meets for ‘lengthy’ talks with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov amid diplomatic crisis

Russia has removed some 750 American diplomats from their positions

By Emily Shugerman New York

The Independent

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he has engaged in “lengthy” talks with the US Secretary of State, and feels the US is ready to continue dialogue with Russia.

Mr Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila. It was the first conversation between the two men since the US imposed sanctions on Russia last week.

Mr Lavrov said Mr Tillerson was chiefly interested in the reduction of some 750 American diplomatic positions in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the move was a response to the US sanctions, and to former President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US earlier this year.

“I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered,” Mr Putin said in a Russian state media interview.



There has been confusion, however, over whether the US diplomats would be expelled from Russia, or simply removed from their positions.

“We provided an explanation,” Mr Lavrov said, but did not disclose details.

The US Congress overwhelmingly voted to imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the country’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Three US intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of releasing damaging information on Hillary Clinton and spreading false reports via social media in an attempt to bolster Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Federal investigators are also looking into whether Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in this effort.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

Mr Trump signed his country’s sanctions into law begrudgingly last week, under intense pressure from legislators. In a statement, Mr Trump called the sanctions “seriously flawed,” and said he would only sign the bill for the sake of national unity.

The President, who has repeatedly pushed for better relations with Moscow, wrote: “We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”

Later, Mr Trump declared US relations with Russia were at an “all-time low”.

Russia “fully shares” Trump’s view that relations are in dangerous condition after sanctions law passed, Kremlin spokesman told press today.

Mr Lavrov, recalling his discussions with Mr Tillerson, said he felt that the Americans “need to keep the dialogue open,” and added: “There’s no alternative to that.”

Mr Tillerson did not comment on the discussions.’

Mr Lavrov said the two men also discussed sending special representative Kurt Volker, the US envoy to Ukraine, on a visit to Moscow. Mr Volker travelled to Ukraine last month to assess the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. The conflict is seen as a major obstacle to improved US-Russia relations in the US.

Mr Lavrov did not specify when Mr Volker would visit.

Mr Tillerson and Mr Lavrov also reportedly discussed the nuclear situation in North Korea, and how the US and Russia could withstand attacks.

They agreed that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary Thomas A Shannon would continue the discussion.