Russia, Iran & Turkey talk long-term Syrian peace in Sochi as US and allies beat war drums in Warsaw

Leaders from Russia, Turkey and Iran have descended on the Black Sea city of Sochi to discuss ways of ending Syria’s near-eight-year civil war. Meanwhile, hostile talk is emerging from a meeting of the US and its allies in Warsaw.

Ahead of the talks, the Kremlin said the purpose of the convention would be to discuss potential “joint steps” that can be taken to bring about a “long-term settlement” in the war-torn country.

In addition to the joint forum, President Vladimir Putin is also holding separate talks with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.

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Speaking at the start of his meeting with Putin, President Erdogan said there was still uncertainty over Washington’s plan to remove troops stationed with Kurdish forces in northern Syria. However, he added that Turkey was willing to move ahead with coordinating a possible ‘safe zone’ with Russia.

9th tête-à-tête in the last year. They meet ahead of 4th summit on later on Thursday. Focus on crisis

Both Iran and Russia have been key allies in helping the Syrian government to defeat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). NATO-member Turkey also has a keen interest in Syria. In 2016, Turkish-backed Syrian militias seized two border crossings and now control a strip of Syrian land as deep as 30km. The grab was considered a bid to contain the Kurdish militias of the YPG, a group seen as terrorists by Erdogan, preventing them from expanding further along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The Sochi summit comes as countries allied to the US are in the Polish capital for two days of meetings. Organized under a similar theme of bringing “peace and stability to the Middle East,” the talks have been seen as a way for US President Donald Trump to drum up support among European and Arab allies for further action on Iran.

Meanwhile, the Israeli leader has been even more blunt. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel and Arab countries are in talks “in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran,” although the translation from Hebrew was later downgraded to “struggle.”

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Russia Warns That US 'Humanitarian Aid' Is A Blatant Sham

The delivery of aid, by the United States, would be an excuse to unleash military actions against Venezuela.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that the United States 'humanitarian convoy' is a cover to prepare, from the Colombian town of Cucuta, a provocative act in Venezuela.

RELATED:  Cuba: US Planes Fly to Strategic Areas to Pressure Venezuela

"Let us not be deceived, or deceive others. A provocation, including with casualties, is being prepared under the guise of a humanitarian convoy. And it is needed as a pretext for a forceful action from outside. And everyone should clearly understand this. We consider it urgently necessary to refrain from steps and statements that could provoke an escalation of tension in Venezuela, in particular, any appeals to the Venezuelan armed forces fraught with their involvement in an internal civil confrontation," Zakharova said.

According to the spokeswoman, the United States has already chosen a "scenario of acute confrontation" in Venezuela, which has as its main objective to try to influence the Venezuelan Army.

“The U.S. is weaponizing humanitarian aid in an effort to sell its regime change campaign against Venezuela...”

"In general, all suggest that the White House has chosen a scenario of acute confrontation with the use of force in Venezuela. I believe that [Washington] even does not try to hide that. All means of information and psychological pressure are being used: from manipulation and provocative media speculations to direct blackmailing and incitement to hatred. The main target is the Bolivarian Republic Armed Forces", she said, according to Sputnik.

For its part, Russia is ready to join the intermediaries in the dialogue in the Latin American country, but only if this is carried out in a maximally broad format.

"Venezuelan servicemen are openly being incited to a rebellion. High-ranking officials in Washington are calling on the armed forces of a sovereign state to side with new political leadership. What right does the United States have to talk about democracy and legal framework both within a separate state and on the global stage after that?" Zakharova questioned.

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‘Space is not your property!’ Beijing blasts US report on China & Russia ‘weaponizing’ space

A new US intelligence report portraying Moscow and Beijing as trying to bring warfare into the heavens has drawn the ire of China, which insists that space is not Washington’s “private property.”

Read more Pentagon’s 1st AI strategy vows to keep pace with Russia & China, wants help from tech

“I want to make it clear that outer space belongs to all mankind. It is not exclusively owned by any one country and especially not the private property of the US,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, referring to the latest paper by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). 

Hua slammed the “unwarranted and utterly baseless comments” in the DIA report, saying China stands for the peaceful use of space and opposes its militarization.

“For many years,” the spokeswoman stated, “China, Russia and other countries have been working hard and trying to reach an international legal instrument to fundamentally prevent the weaponization of or an arms race in outer space.”

The DIA report – which comes amid Donald Trump’s cosmic endeavors such as the establishment of the Space Command – fans fears of US dominance being challenged everywhere, including space. Russia and China “view space as important to modern warfare and view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness,” it claims, noting that both countries have done much to boost their capabilities.

“These capabilities provide their militaries… with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track, and target US and allied forces,” the DIA says.

READ MORE: Trump orders US agencies to turbocharge AI research and ensure American dominance

What it did not say, however, is that a host of senior US military leaders have openly discussed the prospect of offensive weapons being delivered into Earth’s orbit. Former Pentagon chief James Mattis, for instance, said in 2017 that the US needs to have offensive weapons in space “should someone decide to militarize it and go on the offensive.”

In fact, Moscow warned in early January that it’s Washington which is eying space as a potential battlefield. In particular, the Russian Foreign Ministry cited US plans to develop space-based interceptors.

The US, China, Russia, and dozens of other countries are parties to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that bars weapons of mass destruction from being placed in space and installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body.

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Hands off ‘our hemisphere’ or Venezuela pays the price: US Senator warns Russia

The US staked a claim on half the world, as Senate Armed Services Committee chair Jim Inhofe said Washington might have to intervene in Venezuela if Russia dares set up a military base not just there, but “in our hemisphere.”

“I think that it could happen,” Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) told a group of reporters on Tuesday. “You’ve got a guy down there that is killing everybody. You could have him put together a base that Russia would have on our hemisphere. And if those things happen, it may be to the point where we’ll have to intervene with troops and respond.”

Should Russia dare encroach on the US’ neck of the woods, Inhofe said: “we have to take whatever action necessary to stop them from doing that.”

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As opposition leader Juan Guaido vies for power, the Russian government has stuck by President Nicolas Maduro. Russia has not, however, promised military aid to Maduro, and Russian diplomat Alexander Shchetinin said on Monday that Venezuela has not requested military aid from Moscow.

After Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela last month, US President Donald Trump immediately recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Since then, the US has pledged humanitarian aid to Guaido, called on Venezuela’s military to support him, and slapped Maduro’s government with fresh economic sanctions. Maduro has denounced Washington’s sponsorship of Guaido as a “vile” coup attempt but nevertheless called for talks with the opposition leader. The US has outright rejected taking part in any discussions with Maduro.

The US has stopped short of deploying troops to Venezuela, despite Trump and national security adviser John Bolton both saying the option is “on the table.” Speaking on Tuesday, Inhofe agreed and suggested that Trump could launch a military operation in Venezuela without Congressional authorization.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “If there is a threat that reaches the threshold of the president having the ability, the constitutional ability of deploying troops, then that’s an unknown. We don’t know right now.”

Also on 'You don’t get to authorize US military interventions' – US Rep. Khanna to Venezuela’s Guaido...

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the United States against military intervention on Tuesday.

"Lavrov has warned against all interference in Venezuela's domestic affairs including the use of force threatened by Washington and which is in violation of international law," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

‘Our hemisphere’

Inhofe said that a flow of Russian troops or weapons into the Western hemisphere “would be a threat to the United States of America.” The United States, meanwhile, reads from a different rulebook.

The US maintains nearly 800 military bases in over 70 countries worldwide, with a foothold on every continent. And, while Inhofe wants to keep an entire hemisphere free from Russian influence, the US is currently in talks to establish a permanent military base in Poland, right on Russia’s doorstep. Given the long history of animosity between Poland and Russia, the Polish government has offered to cough up $2 billion towards setting up the base.

Further afield, no hemisphere is beyond the reach of the United States. The US military divides the globe up into six Combatant Command ‘Areas of Responsibility,’ which it maintains in times of peace and war. Russia, meanwhile, divides its territory into four military districts, all within its own borders.

Two countries. Two maps. Two approaches to the world. Everything should be clear from this.

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Russia Proposes Venezuelan 'Peaceful Measures' Initiative to UN

Russia reiterated its support for democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro, and presented a 'peaceful measures' initiative to the United Nations Security Council regarding Venezuela. 

On Friday afternoon, Russia proposed a call to the United Nations Security Council, to end outside interference from the U.S. and it's allied nations.

RELATED: US Blockade on Venezuela Has Cost US$350 Billion: Report

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hasn't shied-away from calling-on opposition forces to come to the negotiating table in a bid to engage in peaceful dialogue regarding the U.S.' attempted coup on the South American nation, and now Russia has suggested a new resolution to help Maduro protect the country's sovereignty against any possible foreign military intervention.

According to AP, Moscow's proposal calls for "resolving the political tensions in Venezuela through 'peaceful measures' based on a 'political settlement' without any preconditions or outside interference."

Reuters reported that, "The Russian draft would express concern over the attempts to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction. It would also express concern over the threats to use force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Venezuela."

Furthermore, TeleSUR Spanish reported that the Russian ambassador to Uruguay, Nikolai Sofinski, confirmed his country's position to support the efforts being made by Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and the Community of Caribbean States (CARICOM), to promote dialogue mechanisms between the Government of Venezuela and the opposition.

"We support all the initiatives that advocate dialogue as a means of solution, which advocate that the opposing sides agree without preconditions or impositions or interference of any kind," Sofinski told Russian public television network, Rossiya.

We reject the statements by the self-proclaimed Juan Guaidó who welcomes a US military intervention in Venezuela. I wonder what the brothers presidents who recognized him have to say about such incitement to war in Latin America

Bolivian President Evo Morales gave his endorsement for peaceful dialogue, and later Tweeted his displeasure of the U.S.' attempts at a coup. "We reject the statements by the self-proclaimed Juan Guaidó who welcomes a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela. I wonder what the brothers' presidents who recognized him have to say about such incitement to war in Latin America."

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Russia Denounces External Interference Worsens Venezuelan Crisis

Foreign interference in Venezuela's internal affairs worsens the crisis in that country, especially when a president in charge is inconceivably named from the outside, Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov denounced on Tuesday.

'We evaluate the situation (in Venezuela) as alarming and resulting from the serious violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states,' the minister said in a press conference.

It is worrying, he said, that initiatives aimed at promoting Venezuelan dialogue are rejected and replaced by other ideas aimed at implementing a change of government.

Mexico and Uruguay were in favor of holding a conference in Montevideo, scheduled for this week, where they invited all Venezuelan political forces, recalled Lavrov. He commented that the legitimate president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, repeatedly expressed his willingness to participate in that dialogue, but the opposition deputy, appointed president in charge, categorically refuses to participate in that process.

Some of our colleagues, including those from the European Union (EU), seemed to initiate mediation by creating a contact group, where they invited a dozen countries from that bloc and other Latin American nations, the foreign minister said.

In his opinion in the EU itself, its main member states do not know Maduro as a legitimate president and insist on recognizing an opponent as interim president, while demanding presidential elections, without any dialogue.

The constructive approach, he said, which implies a national meeting and agreement on a generally acceptable agenda, is replaced by certain formats built on the logic of ultimatum and impositions.

It is contradictory, he said, that our interest and that of China in participating in the search for opportunities for negotiation between the Venezuelan parties is not taken into account.

We believe, he said, that only by sitting at the negotiating table between the government and the opposition can we get out of this crisis.

Otherwise, there will be the same attempt to depose a government, as in other cases, in which the West has already been involved. There is not a single country where that change has been for the better, said Lavrov.

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Iran, Russia to Abandon Dollar, Trade in National Currencies

Iran and Russia, two countries dealing with U.S. imposed sanctions, are abandoning the dollar for bilateral trade and adopting national currencies.

Russia and Iran have decided to end trading in dollars for their bilateral economic relations. The countries want to use their national currencies instead. They also could use the euro for trade as reported by the Russian ambassador to Iran, Levan Dzhagaryan.

RELATED: Russia Pulls Out of The INF in Tit For Tat With The US

"We will support the Russian ruble and the Iranian rial, in case of urgent need [we will work] in euros, in the absence of other options, " said Dzhagaryan to TASS, adding that for Moscow, "the transition to mutual calculations" in national currencies with Tehran "is vital."

The ambassador believes that despite the difficulty of the task, the banking institutes of both nations have the ability to implement the initiative.

Various countries are trying to minimize the usage of the dollar. Last August, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey was preparing to adopt payments in national currency to Russia, China, Iran, and Ukraine and use euro for European Union.

Rampant sanctions against countries that oppose the United States hegemony have been using alternative currencies to retaliate against the sanctions.

Last year Iran announced the suppression of the U.S. dollar and replaced it with euro, Iraqi dinar, and Iranian rial.

In order to maintain economic security in the country, Russia on Jan. 10 transferred almost US$100 billion to the Chinese yuan, the euro and Japanese yen.

The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said Thursday that the EU is launching INSTEX (Instrument of Support to Commercial Exchanges) to trade with Iran in order to evade sanctions imposed by the U.S.

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Russia follows US in suspending nuclear deal

Russia has suspended the cold war-era intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty after a similar move by the US.

Vladimir Putin announced the decision on Saturday and also instructed the government not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington.

Moscow’s relations with the west are strained over a number of issues, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as well as charges of meddling with the presidential election in the US and allegedly being behind a nerve agent attack in Britain.

“The American partners have declared that they suspend their participation in the deal; we suspend it as well,” the Russian president said during a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers.

The US announced on Friday it would withdraw from the INF treaty with Russia in six months unless Moscow ended what it said were violations of the landmark 1987 arms control pact.

Putin said Russia would start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic ones, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington, accusing the US of being slow to respond to such moves.

“We have repeatedly, during a number of years, and constantly raised a question about substantiative talks on the disarmament issue, notably, on all the aspects,” Putin said. “We see that in the past few years the partners have not supported our initiatives.”

During the meeting, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, also accused the US of violating the INF and other arms deals, such as the non-proliferation treaty.

Putin said Russia would not increase its military budget for the new weapons and it would not deploy its weapons in Europe and other regions unless the US did so.

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