Tag Archive: Sergey Lavrov


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Lavrov: Unclear what exactly US is doing in Syria & why results so insignificant

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov © Maxim Shemetov
The Russian Foreign Ministry has questioned the effectiveness of the US-led year-long air campaign in Syria, saying it’s unclear “why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant.” Failing to curb ISIS, the US has now “adjusted” its program.

“We have very few specifics which could explain what the US is exactly doing in Syria and why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian channel NTV. “With, as far as I know, 25,000 sorties they [US-led air campaign] could have smashed the entire [country of] Syria into smithereens,” the minister noted.

Moscow claims lost most of its ammunition & heavy vehicles in Russian airstrikes http://on.rt.com/6tsh 

 

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‘We forgot what peace is’: Everyday life in war-torn Damascus revealed in touching photo report

© varlamov.ru
Syria’s capital Damascus has been blighted by the same civil war which has gripped the whole country for more than four years. Residents say that they don’t remember what peace is. Many hope that Russia’s military operation will finally stop the violence.

 

Damascus residents told Russian journalists Nigina Beroeva and Ksenia Bolshakova, who report for the Varlamov.ru blog, that people in the capital welcomed the start of Russia’s anti-terrorist operation, launched on September 30, with enthusiasm.

In Damascus [people] remember this day. Locals say all people were watching TV, following the news, rejoicing. During peaceful times maybe only football was watched with such interest,” the reporters wrote.

© varlamov.ru

In conversation, some have said that there are people who do not support Russia’s operation. However, it was difficult to find opposition activists in Damascus, the report said. It added that those who said that they are pleased with Russian support questioned why it took Moscow so long to provide it. However, both sides – supporters and those who opposed the airstrikes – said that the war should be stopped, and that at the moment it can only be done with Russia’s help, according t the journalists.

© varlamov.ru

The Old City area is still being shelled from time to time, but fortunately there has been no severe damage inflicted to sites of cultural heritage within Damascus, according to the report. Among the latest incidents was one targeting the Russian embassy on Tuesday. Luckily no one was injured.

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US draws a line on protecting CIA-backed rebels in Syria

Associated Press

By KEN DILANIAN October 13, 2015 4:17 PM
FILE - In this June 17, 2015 file photo, smoke and explosions from fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels in the Quneitra area of Syria are seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Russian military intervention to prop up the Syrian government has put new scrutiny on the CIA’s secret support to Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad, raising questions about how far the U.S. is willing to go in empowering its proxies to take on Vladimir Putin’s allies. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

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FILE – In this June 17, 2015 file photo, smoke and explosions from fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels in the Quneitra area of Syria are seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Russian military intervention to prop up the Syrian government has put new scrutiny on the CIA’s secret support to Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad, raising questions about how far the U.S. is willing to go in empowering its proxies to take on Vladimir Putin’s allies. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Russian military intervention to prop up Syria’s government has brought new scrutiny of the CIA’s secret support to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Assad. But how far is the U.S. willing to go to empower its proxies to take on Vladimir Putin’s allies?

The answer seems to be: Not very far.

“Countering Russia’s involvement in Syria doesn’t rate nearly as high on the scale” as battling the Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday.

After the CIA spent more than two years secretly working with Arab allies to arm, train and fund thousands of so-called moderate rebels to oppose Assad, American officials have watched in recent days as Russian bombs and missiles have targeted those groups.

U.S. officials and outside experts say the Obama administration is unlikely to protect CIA-backed rebels from Russian air strikes — by providing them with surface-to-air missiles, for example — for fear they could fall into the wrong hands and be used against passenger jets in a terrorist attack. There is also little appetite in the White House for a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone in Syria, officials say.

Instead, the U.S. has been continuing its delivery to rebels of American-made TOW anti-tank missiles. Rebels have deployed the missiles to great effect over the last six months, and even more so in the last week, destroying dozens of Russian-made Syrian armored vehicles.

 

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Russia’s air war in Syria a game-changer for US: experts

AFP

A rebel fighter stands in a building overlooking the damage from fighting in the city of Aleppo on December 16, 2013
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Washington (AFP) – Two weeks into Russia’s air war in Syria, some observers say the narrow scope of the US-led mission in Syria — to conduct drone and plane strikes against Islamic State jihadists — needs an urgent rethink.

The Pentagon insists Moscow’s bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad will not alter the US-coalition’s own military mission in the devastated nation.

But the stubborn fact remains: Russia’s presence has forced the US military to adapt to a suddenly much more complex battle space.

Patrick Skinner, director of special projects for The Soufan Group intelligence consultancy, said it is a game-changer.

“Things are coming into focus and people are choosing sides in a way that they haven’t had to before,” he said.

President Barack Obama has until now adopted a cautious line on Syria, bombing IS jihadists and calling for Assad’s departure but taking no official part in the country’s four-and-a-half-year civil war.

 

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Islamic State urges jihad against Russians, Americans: audio

Reuters

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State (IS) while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in this June 30, 2014 file photo.

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Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State (IS) while taking part in a military parade …

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Islamic State called on Muslims to launch a “holy war” against Russians and Americans over what it called their “crusaders’ war” in the Middle East, an audio message distributed by supporters of the ultra hardline group said on Tuesday.

“Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims,” the speech by Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said.

The United States and Russia are carrying separate airstrike campaigns in Syria, which they say are targeting Islamic State.

Washington says Moscow’s campaign has mainly targeted other insurgent groups including those that have fought Islamic State, a charge Russia denies.

The United States is also carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, where Russia has also become separately involved. A senior Iraqi parliamentarian said on Tuesday that Russian officials were part of a new Iraq-based intelligence center with staff from Iran and Syria.

The audio message also confirmed the death of Abu Mutaz Qurashi, which the SITE monitoring service said was a reference to a senior Islamic State official killed in an airstrike in Iraq in August and referred to then as Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali.

The White House said at the time that a U.S. air strike in Iraq had killed Hayali, whom it described as the second-in-command of the group which has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

 

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Pro-Russia Militant Rejects Ukraine Pact

The leader of a group of pro-Russia separatists, Denis Pushilin, said he would ignore the diplomatic pact between Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate the crisis.

Credit Sergei Grits/Associated Press

 

KIEV, Ukraine — An American-backed deal to settle the crisis in eastern Ukraine fell flat on Friday as pro-Russian militants vowed to stay in occupied government buildings, dashing hopes of a swift end to an insurgency that the authorities in Kiev portray as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to put Ukraine’s industrial heartland under Russian control.

But the agreement, reached in Geneva on Thursday by diplomats from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, appeared to arrest, at least temporarily, the momentum of separatist unrest in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Armed pro-Russian militants, who have seized buildings in at least 10 towns and cities since Feb. 6, paused their efforts to purge all central government authority from the populous Donetsk region.

It was clear all along that for the pact to have a chance of success, the Kremlin would have to pressure the militants to leave the buildings they had seized. So far, it has shown no inclination to do so, blaming the Ukrainian government for the turmoil and denying that Russia has any ties to the rebels.

With militants vowing to ignore the agreement but halting what had been a daily expansion of territory under their control, officials in Kiev, the capital, voiced some hope that a settlement was still possible. They were skeptical, however, about Russia’s willingness to push the separatists to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.

“If Russia is responsible before not just Ukraine but the world community, it should prove it,” said Andrii Deshchytsia, the acting Ukrainian foreign minister, who took part in the Geneva talks.

Western officials said the United States planned to reassure Eastern European members of NATO by conducting company-size — about 150 soldiers — ground force exercises in Estonia and Poland. The exercises would last a couple of weeks and would most likely be followed by other troop rotations in the region.

In a sign of the chasm separating Russian and Ukrainian views, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday that made no mention of the pro-Russian militants driving the unrest. It said the call for militants to disarm “meant in the first place” the disarming of Ukrainian nationalist groups hostile to Russia, like Right Sector “and other pro-fascist groups which took part in the February coup in Kiev.”

The state-run Russian television channel, Rossiya, reporting from an occupied building in Horlivka in the Donetsk region, featured a masked gunman who pledged to “fight to the end for his convictions.” He displayed an armband emblazoned with a swastika-like symbol, which he said had been seized from supporters of the Ukrainian government.

Doubts about the Kremlin’s readiness to push pro-Russian militants to surrender their guns have been strengthened by its insistence that it has no hand in or control over the separatist unrest, which Washington and Kiev believe is the result of a covert Russian operation involving, in some places, the direct action of special forces.

“I don’t know Russia’s intentions,” Mr. Deshchytsia said, noting that during the negotiations, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had repeatedly asserted “that Russia was not involved.” He said Mr. Lavrov had been “cooperative and aggressive at the same time.”

 Russia’s denials have stirred concerns that it went along with the agreement not to curb the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, but to blunt American and European calls for tougher sanctions that could severely damage Russia’s already sickly economy. Western sanctions have so far been limited to a travel ban and asset freeze on a few dozen individuals and a Russian bank.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Lavrov on Friday and urged Russia to ensure “full and immediate compliance” with the agreement, a senior State Department official said. Mr. Kerry, the official added, “made clear that the next few days would be a pivotal period for all sides to implement the statement’s provisions, particularly that all illegal armed groups must be disarmed and all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners.”

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In Ukraine, Pro-Russia Radicals Reject Call To Leave Occupied Buildings

By RFE/RL
Pro-Russia radicals occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine say they will only leave if the pro-Western government in Kyiv resigns.

Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of the radicals in Donetsk, told reporters on April 18 that he did not consider his men bound by a compromise agreement between Russia and Ukraine to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.

The agreement was reached at four-party talks on April 17 in Geneva also involving the United States and the European Union.

Pushilin said the government in Kyiv was illegitimate and also must vacate public buildings that he said it was occupying illegally.

Local media reports on April 18 said none of the government buildings seized across eastern Ukraine had yet been vacated.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament on April 18 that the government had drafted a law that would offer an amnesty to insurgents who would lay down their arms and leave the occupied buildings.

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EU spy chief rules out Russian military presence in Ukraine

Published time: April 16, 2014 13:27
Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

There is no large Russian military presence in East Ukraine, head of EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.

In an interview with Finnish national news broadcaster, Yle, Alafuzoff said the Russian military had nothing to do with the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

“In my opinion, it’s mostly people who live in the region who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs,” said Alafuzoff, referring to the situation in East Ukraine. He went on to say that the people are worried for the welfare of those who speak Russian as their first language in the region.

Alafuzoff echoed the words of the Russian government which has categorically denied interfering in the ongoing unrest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Monday that Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine and wants the country to remain united.

Anti-Kiev activists in the southeast of Ukraine have seized local government buildings as a mark of protest against the coup-appointed Ukrainian government. In response to the unrest, Ukraine’s interim President Aleksandr Turchinov announced the beginning of an “anti-terrorist” operation in eastern Ukraine.

 

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RFE/RL

In Eastern Ukraine, The Hunt For A Smoking Gun — And A Real Russian Holding It

Pro-Russian gunmen stand guard outside the mayor's office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on April 14. Can Kyiv prove some are Russian servicemen?

Pro-Russian gunmen stand guard outside the mayor’s office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on April 14. Can Kyiv prove some are Russian servicemen?

By Daisy Sindelar
As separatists continue to hold government buildings throughout the Ukrainian east, a desperate search is on to prove that Russian forces are behind the coordinated actions, much as they were in Crimea.

The proof would cement suspicions that Russia, which has maintained a military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border for months, is preparing to further destabilize its already fragile neighbor, if not annex certain portions of it outright.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continues to insist that Russia has none of its forces inside Ukraine.

But Western officials say they are already convinced of Russian involvement. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the weekend instability that swept through cities like Slovyansk, Mariupol, and Kramatorsk “was choreographed in and by Russia.”

Ukrainian officials, too, have offered evidence of Russian involvement. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said the armed men seizing government buildings were armed with automatic rifles used by the Russian Army, and not the types of rifles stolen from Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) forces, as many pro-Russian protesters have claimed. (Although he does not offer specific details, Deshchytsya appears to be referring to documented use of Kalashnikov AK-100 rifles, which are not part of the Ukrainian arsenal.)

But it may be Andriy Parubiy, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who holds the true smoking gun. Parubiy, a former lawmaker and Euromaidan protest leader, announced on April 15 that SBU agents had detained officers from the Russian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence wing, the GRU, for involvement in the eastern actions.

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Lavrov denies east Ukraine unrest was conducted by supposed Russian agents

Lavrov denies east Ukraine unrest was conducted by supposed Russian agents

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied allegations that the current unrest in southeastern Ukraine is the work of supposed Russian agents. Ukrainian acting Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchytsya called Lavrov on Saturday and, “in the course of the conversation, tried to hold Russia accountable for the aggravation of the situation in the south and southeast of Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A statement recently published by the Russian Foreign Ministry says that there are no reasons to accuse Russia of aggravating of the situation in Ukraine’s southern and southeastern regions.

In response, Sergey Lavrov said that there are no grounds for such claims. He added that the US has already put forward similar accusations against Russia, but failed to give any concrete evidence.

Mr. Lavrov also said that Ukraine’s current authorities should try their best to prevent any acts of violence in Ukraine. The Russian minister also told his Ukrainian counterpart that Ukraine’s government should stop threats to start attacks against protesters who have occupied several buildings in the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. Ukraine’s authorities should use only peaceful means, Mr. Lavrov said. They should start a dialogue with their opponents in the country’s south and southeast, fulfill their lawful demands and involve the opposition in the formation of Ukraine’s new constitution.

When Andrey Deshitsa asked about the possibility of holding a four-sided meeting between Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov answered that preparations for such a meeting are already under way. The details of the agenda, the format and the place of this meeting are still being discussed.

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Price tag for Russian gas to Ukraine could rise to $500

Published time: March 20, 2014 12:10

Reuters / Sergej Vasiljev

Reuters / Sergej Vasiljev

The price of Russian gas to Ukraine could rise to $500 per 1,000 cubic meters, as future developments in relations between Moscow and Kiev remain vague.

From April 1 the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas will go up to $360-$370 per 1,000 cubic metres, after Russia cancelled the discount agreed in late December, Pavel Zavalny, the head of Russian Gas Society told Izvestia newspaper.

In the worst case scenario, and Ukraine decides to take over Russian property, as well as new threats from radical nationalists, the price could jump to as high as to $500, the paper added.

 

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Russia to redirect trade elsewhere in case of EU-US sanctions

Published time: March 19, 2014 16:59

Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolsky)

Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolsky)

Russia will switch to other trade partners if economic sanctions are imposed by the US and the European Union, the Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has said.

“If one economic partner on the one side of the globe impose sanctions, we will pay attention to new partners from the globe’s other side. The world is not monopolar, we will concentrate on other economic partners,” RIA news quotes Peskov.

According to him, possible economic sanctions by the US and EU on Russia are unacceptable, and the Russian Federation intends to offer further economic cooperation with the European Union.

“We want to keep good relations with the EU and with the US. Especially with the European Union as it is the main economic, investment and trade partner of the Russian Federation. Our mutual economic dependence assumes that we shall have good relations,” the Russian President’s Press Secretary declared. He also emphasized that discussion of global economic problems without involvement of Russia can’t be a complete discussion.

In a Tuesday telephone conversation between Russia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and the US Secretary of State John Kerry they discussed the situation in Ukraine, and Lavrov said sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union against the Russian Federation are absolutely unacceptable and won’t come without consequences.

According to data from the EU’s Eurostat, Russia accounts for 7 percent of imports and 12 percent of exports in the 28 European Union bloc, making it the region’s third most important trading partner, behind the USA and China.

In turn, the EU is Russia’s biggest trade and investment partner, with trade turnover estimated at $330 billion in 2012.

 

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US suggests engaging Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran in Syria talks – newspaper

Photo: EPA

During the Munich meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the American side suggested creating an additional mechanism to promote the Syrian settlement, the Moscow-based Kommersant newspaper writes in its Tuesday edition.

The newspaper quotes a Russian diplomatic source as saying that the case in point is a regional format that should expand the number of participants in the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria.

“The Americans have proposed to include five participants into a parallel track: Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran,” the report says.

Russia and the US play a leading role in the Syrian settlement. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are the main sponsors of opponents of the regime, while Iran is its key ally.

“The Russian side has on the whole welcomed the proposal. Last year, Moscow itself initiated a regional negotiation format in addition to inter-Syrian dialogue, but back then the United States deemed it inexpedient. Now the US side has come up with the same idea,” Kommersant reports.

The newspaper links a change in Washington’s position to the results of the first round of Geneva-2.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described those results as “modest but encouraging.”

Moscow has hailed as positive the fact that the Syrian conflicting parties sat down at the negotiating table within the Geneva-2 framework and that none has “slammed the door” so far.

UN and Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi sounded more pessimistic. “Unfortunately, we have achieved nothing,” Brahimi told reporters in Munic. He voiced hope that the next round of Geneva-2, scheduled for February 10, would take place in a more constructive atmosphere.

Washington apparently doubts that, hence its latest offer.

So far, it’s not very clear whether it’s about a parallel conference involving regional players or a kind of permanent communication channel between them.

A Kommersant diplomatic source in a leading European country has described the US proposal as “useful.”

“Any means that can stop the bloodshed should be used,” the source said. He believes that the European Union – “Syria’s key humanitarian aid donor” – should also have a part in the future regional talks.

“It would be wrong to underestimate the positive role the Europeans could play in that process,” the diplomat said.

However, considering how hard convening Geneva-2 proved to be, organizing regional talks may also be a challenge.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

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Ukraine unrest: EU and US clash with Russia in Munich

Anti-government protester on 1 Feb Anti-government protests in Ukraine show no sign of coming to an end

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the “future of Ukraine belongs with the EU” while US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US backed Ukraine’s “fight for democracy”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western countries of double standards over violent protests.

Ukraine has been in turmoil since November, when it scrapped an EU accord in favour of a Russian bailout.

‘Time on our side’

The security conference is an annual event held to discuss military and political affairs.

Mr Van Rompuy’s opening speech referred to the EU’s offer of close association with Ukraine.

“The offer is still there and we know time is on our side. The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union,” he said.

Mr Kerry launched a broad attack on “a disturbing trend in too many parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans”.

He said: “The aspirations of citizens are once again being trampled beneath corrupt, oligarchic interests – interests that use money to stifle political opposition and dissent, to buy politicians and media outlets, and to weaken judicial independence.”

Mr Kerry added: “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine. The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight.”

He said the “vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely in a safe and prosperous country – they are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realise their aspirations”.

In an apparent swipe at Moscow, he added that “their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced”.

Mr Lavrov said that a “choice is being imposed [on Ukraine] and Russia is not going to be engaged in this”.

He asked: “What does incitement of violent street protests have to do with the promotion of democracy? Why do we not hear condemnation of those who seize government buildings and attack police and use racist, anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, 1 Feb John Kerry had harsh words for corruption in eastern Europe and the Balkans

Ukraine’s future has sparked angry exchanges at a summit in Munich.

Herman Van Rompuy: “The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union”

Neutrality is missing in Munich as rival sides ratchet up the rhetoric”

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US slugs it out with Russia over Ukraine

Updated: 11:24, Sunday February 2, 2014

US slugs it out with Russia over Ukraine

The United States has traded barbs with Russia over Ukraine’s future as key opposition figures met US Secretary of State John Kerry amid concerns that Kiev could call in the military to end anti-government protests.

Neither side pulled any punches on Saturday, with Kerry saying that what happens in Ukraine is crucial for Europe’s future while his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov blasted what he called wilful and two-faced Western interference.

‘Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine,’ Kerry told political, diplomatic and military leaders at the Munich Security Conference.

‘The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight,’ said Kerry, who met later Saturday with Ukrainian opposition leaders including former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko in Munich.

Kerry said Ukrainians ‘are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realise their aspirations – and they have decided that means their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced.’

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BBC News

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry (C). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Paris
Mr Kerry (C) and Mr Lavrov (R) met in Paris, along with Mr Brahimi (L)

The US and Russia have discussed the possibility of “localised ceasefires” in Syria ahead of peace talks to be held in Switzerland next week.

Russia also said Syria was considering opening humanitarian access to besieged rebel areas.

A prisoner exchange is also under consideration, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The two men are in Paris to discuss arrangements for the Geneva talks.

“We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire, maybe a localised ceasefire in Aleppo,” Mr Kerry told a news conference after talks with Mr Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria.

Both Mr Kerry and Lavrov said they hoped ceasefires could be in place before the talks, along with plans for prisoner exchanges and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

Mr Kerry said it was up to the Syrian government to show they were serious.

“I’m pleased to say that Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated that he’s had some conversations with the [Syrian] regime, that the regime may be prepared to open up a number of areas, specifically al-Gouta which we have been pushing for for some period of time, and it may be possible for convoys now to be able to access,” he said.

 

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UPDATE 2-U.S. and Russia say Syria aid access and local ceasefire possible

 

Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:31pm GMT

 

By Warren Strobel

Jan 13 (Reuters) – Syria‘s government and some rebels may be willing to permit humanitarian aid to flow, enforce local ceasefires and take other confidence-building measures in the nearly three-year-old civil war, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.

Kerry said that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire. Maybe a localized ceasefire, beginning with Aleppo,” Syria’s largest city. “And both of us have agreed to try to work to see if that could be achieved.”

Syrian rebels backed by Washington have agreed that, if the government commits to such a partial ceasefire, “they would live up to it”, Kerry said.

Given the history of failed attempts to end the war, which has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions, it remains far from clear that even a partial ceasefire can be achieved or, if it is, can hold.

It also seems unlikely to be honored by powerful militant islamist rebel factions, some of whom are at war with both Damascus and other rebel groups backed by the West and Gulf states.

But diplomats are trying to persuade the combatants to agree to a series of steps to improve the atmosphere for Syrian peace talks planned for Switzerland on Jan. 22.

Kerry spoke at a press conference in Paris with Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. Secretary General’s top Syria envoy.

Lavrov, whose government backs Assad, said the Syrian government had indicated it might provide access for humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas. He specifically cited the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, where 160,000 people have been largely trapped by fighting, according to the United Nations.

“We await similar steps by the opposition,” Lavrov said.

Kerry expressed some scepticism that Assad’s government would follow through.

“The proof will be in the pudding, as we say,” he said. “This news of a possibility is welcome.”

 

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VOA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no bigger ally than Iran.  So his government says it expects Iran will be invited to planned peace talks in Geneva “just like any other state.”

The international mediator to the conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi, agrees.

“Iran is a very important country in the region and they have to be present in a conference like this,” he said.

But while the United Nations is responsible for sending the invitations, Brahimi says he is working in consensus with the main organizing partners: Russia and the United States.

But the U.S. says Iran must first agree to the establishment of a transitional Syrian government by “mutual consent” which presumes that President Assad’s opponents would never agree to his joining an interim government and would thus end his rule.

  • Smoke rises from what activists said were explosive barrels thrown from helicopters on Daria outside Damascus, Jan. 12, 2014.

 

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Published time: October 01, 2013 09:36
Edited time: October 01, 2013 13:00

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed doubts that the West will be successful in getting the Syrian opposition to take part in the ‘Geneva-2’ peace conference, which he expects to take place in mid-November.

Lavrov, stressing that this needs to happen, suggested that getting “rational members” of the opposition on board is a priority, RIA Novosti reports.

He said there is still a lack of clarity regarding who will participate in the anticipated peace talks, “which is a big problem.

Speaking at a Tuesday press conference in Moscow, Lavrov confirmed that a substantial number of the opposition’s commanders have broken free of Syrian National Coalition control.

While this whole business drags on, the radical, Jihadist elements of the opposition, like Al-Nusra Front and others, are gaining in strength.”

: The outcome of the five permanent members’ meeting with @secgen Ban Ki-moon:the -2 meeting can be held in mid-November

The current issue we are faced with is “not to waste any more time,” Lavrov added.

The success of the conference rests in the hands of those “who hold bigger sway with the opposition [than Russia]… We work with everyone, but the bigger influence on the opposition is exerted by our Western colleagues and key Middle Eastern states,” the FM stressed.

“Regarding opposition representation – this remains to be settled. Until recently we have been relying on our Western partners who pledged to push the opposition to the negotiations table and we hoped they would manage it quickly. But so far they have not succeeded. And I am not sure they will by mid-November.”

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Syria govt ‘ready to go to Geneva for dialogue, not to hand over power to anyone’ – FM

Published time: September 29, 2013 19:55
Edited time: September 30, 2013 07:02

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.(AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary)

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.(AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary)

The Syrian government is ready for peace talks with the opposition, but the legitimacy of President Assad “isn’t up for discussion,” Syrian FM Walid Muallem said. It comes as the Syrian opposition remains undecided on who will represent them at Geneva.

Any political program or work document produced at the Geneva-2 peace conference would have to go through a popular referendum in Syria before it can be applied, Muallem, Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Minister said in an interview with Sky News Arabia on Saturday.

Moreover, the minister reiterated that Syrian President Bashar Assad was legitimately elected to serve until the upcoming elections in mid- 2014, and that his resignation “isn’t up for discussion with anyone.”

Muallem said that the Syrian government is prepared to hold talks with “licensed opposition parties” on forming a national unity government. He went on to disregard the “Doha coalition” – the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in Doha, Qatar in November 2012 from various opposition groups – as the sole representative of the opposition, saying that it “failed in the eyes of Syrians after they demanded the US to wage aggression on Syria.”

Although mid-November has been set as an approximate date for the Geneva-2 conference by the UN, the precise date remains unclear, Muallem noted, saying that the UN and its envoy Lakhdar Brahimi “are having trouble gathering the opposition” in Geneva.

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