West bears responsibility for chaos & terrorist attacks in MidEast and N. Africa – Lavrov

The western states that supported regime changes and financed militants in the Greater Middle East, particularly in Libya, bear responsibility for the chaos ravaging the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his visit to Cairo.

Lavrov arrived in Cairo on Monday with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu for a joint meeting of the Russian and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers. The fight against terrorism was top of the meeting’s agenda.

Both sides reiterated that for counter-terrorist efforts to have any effect, the fight against this global threat must be carried out jointly.

“The recent attack on the Coptic Christians once again highlights the need for vigilance. We stand united in our attempt to boost anti-terrorist efforts around the globe,” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart that followed the meeting.

Lavrov was referring to Friday’s terrorist attack in the town of Minya, which claimed the lives of 28 people, including children, and left dozens injured. Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, which prompted Egypt to launch what it called responsive strikes against jihadist positions in neighboring Libya.

On Saturday, the Egyptian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Egypt’s armed forces have successfully completed the destruction of all planned targets abroad, including the militants’ concentration areas and training camps.

During the press conference, Lavrov addressed the issue of the ongoing Libyan crisis that poses a security threat for neighboring countries, including Egypt, and once again drew attention to the fact that western involvement in the crisis in the North African country led only to the dismantling of its statehood and eventually turned it into “a backyard for terrorists.”

“Libya was bombed and its government was violently overthrown. It was turned into a backyard for terrorists and criminals. The regime was changed with the help of those [militants], who came from Europe. They were free to leave their countries because everybody knew where they were going and what they were going to do there. And then they were welcomed back,” he said.

“Now, we just see the consequences of these irresponsible policies,” Lavrov told reporters at the press conference, adding that western countries should bear responsibility for the chaos that resulted from their actions.

Earlier, Lavrov also met with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit. The Secretary-General later told RT’s Maria Finoshina that he “very much” approves of Egypt’s airstrikes against terrorists in Libya.

Shoigu also discussed issues related to combating terrorism and extremism with his Egyptian counterpart. The two sides agreed to continue sharing intelligence and discussed joint exercises and military training.

The Russian and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers also held a joint meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and discussed regional conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

In October 2015, 224 people, mostly Russian citizens, were killed after an improvised explosive device went off on board an Airbus A321 flying from Sharm El Sheikh International Airport to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. The Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed as it was flying over the northern Sinai Peninsula. Islamic State’s supporters in Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack. The bombing led to several countries suspending flights to Egypt over concerns of lack of airport security. While Moscow has continued to uphold the ban, the steps undertaken by Cairo to improve security have led to an agreement to resume the flights “in the shortest term,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said following Monday’s meeting in Cairo.

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Assad: Idlib attack 100% fabricated, Syria destroyed all chemical weapons

The chemical incident in Idlib province blamed on Damascus was a “100 percent fabrication” as the Syrian military has already dismantled chemical weapons stockpiles, President Bashar Assad told AFP.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it's fabrication... Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists,” President Assad told the French news agency in his first interview since the retaliatory US missile strike on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat.

“They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” he said.

 
© Mike Blake

According to Assad, the Syrian military dismantled all of its chemical weapons arsenal in 2013.

“There was no order to make any attack… We gave up our arsenal a few years ago. Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them,” he added.

The Syrian leader said it was “not clear” if the alleged chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib province, even took place.

“You have a lot of fake videos now. We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Shaykhun. Were they dead at all?” he said.

Assad said the US Tomahawk strike on the Shayrat airbase was anything but efficient as it had little impact on the country’s military capabilities.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike,” he said.

Assad urged the international community to launch an inquiry into the alleged Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, but added Damascus would only allow an “impartial” external investigation.

“We can only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes,” he said.

The Syrian leader also lashed out at the Trump administration, saying peace talks that would ensure a lasting truce in Syria have stalled because the US has no interest in ending the war.

“The US is not serious in achieving any political solution. They want to use it as an umbrella for the terrorists,” he said.

On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution which called for a speedy investigation into the Idlib incident.

Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy envoy to the UN, called the draft “unfounded,” and urged instead for an independent fact-finding mission to be dispatched to rebel-held Khan Shaykhun.

READ MORE: Russia vetoes West’s 'misconceived' Syria resolution at UN Security Council

Reports of dozens being killed in an alleged chemical attack emerged on April 4. Despite no investigation being carried out, the US and its Western allies put the blame for the incident on the Assad government.

Damascus denied its involvement, with Russia saying that the chemicals could have been released due to a conventional strike hitting a militant arms depot which contained “toxic substances.”

However, US President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory airstrike on Friday, with 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at the Shayrat airbase in Homs province.

The attack killed 14 people, including nine civilians, and destroyed a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen, six MiG-23 aircraft in repair hangars and a radar station.

READ MORE: US Tomahawk strike on Syria as effective as dropping missiles from air balloons – Russia’s MoD

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the American strike was “low efficiency,” and that only 23 missiles reached the targeted base.

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UN Warns US, West over Support for Saudi 'War Crimes' in Yemen

A new report by the U.N. looking into 10 recent attacks by Saudi Arabia in Yemen said some of them could amount to war crimes.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has carried out attacks in Yemen that "may amount to war crimes," the United Nations sanctions monitors reported to the body's Security Council, reminding coalition allies – including the United States, Britain and France – that they are obligated to respect international humanitarian law.

RELATED: 1 Year Later: West-Backed Saudi Coalition Has Destroyed Yemen

The annual report by the experts who monitor the sanctions and conflict in Yemen, seen by Reuters Saturday, investigated 10 coalition air strikes between March and October that killed at least 292 civilians, including some 100 women and children.

"In eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the airstrikes had targeted legitimate military objectives," the experts wrote in a 63-page report presented to the Security Council on Friday.

https://media-telesur.openmultimedia.biz/clips/imagen-2016-10-07-152159634590-599207.png/thumb/1080x1080.jpg

"For all 10 investigations, the panel considers it almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack."

The report said that at least some of the attacks “may amount to war crimes," and further warned that military advisers and troops from the U.S., Britain and other Western countries, could bear some responsibility.

"All coalition member states and their allies also have an obligation to take appropriate measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by the coalition," the U.N. experts wrote.

"The panel finds that violations associated with the conduct of the air campaign are sufficiently widespread to reflect either an ineffective targeting process or a broader policy of attrition against civilian infrastructure," they added.

The Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in support of Yemeni government forces nearly two years ago to prevent Ansarullah Houthi rebels – whom it sees as a proxy for Iran – from taking complete control of Yemen after seizing much of the north.

The Houthis, who are allied with forces loyal to former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh, deny carrying out any crimes in their war effort and say they are defending the country and its civilians from Saudi-led foreign "aggression."

Saudi Arabia claims that Iran is supplying weapons to the Houthi rebels, which Tehran denies, while the U.N. report said there was not enough evidence to support the Saudi claim.

RELATED: Pope Condemns as 'Senseless and Diabolical' Slaughter in Yemen

"The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture," the experts said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been accused of bombing several schools and hospitals, at least two of which belonged to the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders, killing dozens of staff and patients.

The U.N. had previously placed the blacklisted Saudi Arabia-led coalition as a violator of children's rights over the school attacks but was forced to backtrack on that decision after Saudi Arabia threatened to cut funding for U.N. programs.

Since March 2015 more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, the majority of them civilians, according to the U.N. and other aid groups.

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Russia for Talks with Syria with Real Actors on the Ground

Moscow, Jan 17 (Prensa Latina) Russia expressed itself today for the participation in the meeting on the Syrian conflict in Astana of real opposition actors in the field, with real control of territories, and Government representatives.

The problem with earlier talks to seek a peaceful solution in Syria was that the West was inviting political groups without direct control of the facts on the ground, stated Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.

Almost all those political representatives invited to previous editions live outside the Levantine country and therefore lacked the representatives of the armed opposition groups, commented the Foreign Relations minister.

That is why, he said, Russia and Turkey raised the need for dialogue with those who are dealing with the weapons in hand.

After reaching that agreement, set at the end of last December, I believe we have achieved a step forward, declared the Russian diplomat.

To the Kazakh capital we go after an agreement was reached between armed formations and the Syrian government last December 30 for a general truce, he clarified.

However, in Astana, can be also analyzed the possibility of giving opposition camp commanders the right to participate in the country's political life once peace is established, considered the Russian minister in his annual press conference.

Lavrov invited to participate representatives of the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who will take on the White House this Friday, to attend talks in the Kazakh capital, along with the United Nations.

We hope that to the agreement to put end to hostilities of December 30 will be joined other armed groups, agreed under the auspices of Russia and Turkey, as well as the approval of Iran.

During other negotiation attempts, it was turned to the Opposition Supreme Council of Syria, who took a capricious position and demanded the removal of Bashar Al Assad from power as a condition to participate in the process, underlined Lavrov.

Such caprices created a situation without solution, although that the West supported position at a sidelong glance, he expressed.

We hope that the requirements of the December 30 agreement on the end of fighting, the meeting in Astana and the beginning of a political process, contained in UN Security Council resolution 2336, will be fulfilled, emphasized the diplomat.

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Syrian President: Ready to Negotiate End of Conflict

Paris, Jan 9 (Prensa Latina) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today expressed his willingness to negotiate to end the conflict in his country, but it must be with the real opposition, he told to the French media in statements released today.

'We are ready to negotiate everything: the end of the conflict, the future of Syria ... Everything is open,' he said in the interview with France Info, RTL and LCP.

However, the president warned that the success of the negotiations, scheduled for the end of the month in Kazakhstan, depends on who will represent the other party.

Regarding the current situation in the Middle East nation and the declared truce, he said that it must be fully respected so that the peace talks can move forward.

The president said in this regard that a ceasefire is viable when all parties stop the fighting, but this is not the case in many Syrian regions, where groups such as Al-Nusra or the Islamic State continue hostilities.

The French media that carried out the interview published yesterday a fragment in which the president said that 'we are on the road to victory,' and that it will be achieved when the territory is free of terrorists, he added.

Yesterday, the Syrian president received three French deputies who visited the Middle East nation: Thierry Mariani, Jean Lassalle and Nicolas Dhuicq.

During the meeting, participants discussed the harm done to the Syrian people by armed organizations, often supported by states in the region and Western countries.

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‘No one in Russia plans to attack NATO’ – US envoy to alliance

Russia has no plans to attack the North Atlantic Alliance, according to US Permanent Representative to NATO Douglas Lute.

In response to a question by the news anchor on whether Russia is expected to try and annex its Russian-speaking Western neighbors, just as it acted – in the eyes of the West – with Crimea and Ukraine, Lute  ABC broadcaster he does not “believe that anyone in Russia today intends to attack NATO.” He added, however, that NATO is responsible for “reassuring” its Eastern European allies in this regard.

But that doesn't mean that we don't have a responsibility to reassure allies like Estonia, who are frontline allies, that is they have a land border with Russia, or allies who are potentially susceptible to cyberattack or misinformation campaigns and so forth,” he said.

The US envoy once again accused Russia of becoming “a source of instability and uncertainty, of unpredictability for the NATO alliance.

“Russia has in many ways torn up the rulebook, the rulebook that guides the international system since at least World War II,” he said, stating that Russia has allegedly been responsible for “cyber [attacks] in allied capitals, funding of political campaigns, misinformation campaigns and even promoting civil unrest” in NATO countries, without providing specific grounds for his accusations.

Following a number of accusations of a similar nature, US President Barack Obama last week officially declared that Russia had hacked the US election this summer. In his words, it had “in fact […] hacked into the DNC,” noting that Washington will respond accordingly. 

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute © Eric Vidal

However, when asked about the plans to hold the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the ambassadors’ level in Brussels on Monday, the first one since the DNC hack in July, Lute said the issue of cyber-security is not “an immediate agenda item” to be discussed there.

“I imagine that more than one ally, however, will bring up with our Russian counterpart this pattern of malign influence that is seen not only in the United States by way of this DNC hacking experience, but across other democracies in the alliance,” he stated.

Russia’s envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko confirmed the meeting will take place later on Monday and said that Moscow expects to have a frank dialogue on security in Europe “taking into account the factors that affect it, including, of course, the consequences of NATO’s buildup on its ‘eastern flank.’

In an interview to German newspaper Bild, published on Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the meeting will be devoted to issues of transparency of military activities in Europe, the Ukrainian crisis, measures to reduce risks of military incidents and accidents. He also said the alliance was not seeking an escalation in relations with Russia, not wanting to bring about a new Cold War. However, since 2014, Europe has seen the biggest NATO buildup in Europe since the Cold War era, particularly in the Baltic States, with the bloc using Moscow's alleged interference in Ukraine as a pretext.

Last Friday, for instance, the US started moving tanks to a storage facility in the Netherlands in yet another move to “deter” Russia. A total of 1,600 vehicles are due to be stored at a six-warehouse complex in the southeastern village of Eygelshoven, near the Belgian and German borders. The Eygelshoven facility was originally opened in 1985 during the Cold War, when it was used by US troops to practice drills in case of a possible Soviet attack.

While the Dutch facility is somewhat far from the Russian border, last Wednesday Poland announced that 4,000 US troops would be deployed to the western town of Zagan in January. And in November, the US military sent over 600 containers of ammunition to Germany, the largest single shipment in more than 20 years. NATO also frequently stages large-scale military exercises in Eastern Europe, the most recent of which being the annual Iron Sword drills in Lithuania, which involved almost 4,000 troops from 11 NATO countries.

 

While NATO explains these measures as means to deter Russia’s alleged aggression, the latter has been openly critical of them, claiming they infringe on Russia’s borders and undermine regional and global stability and security. Russia has also been excessively training troops and increasing its own strategic capabilities, for instance, in Kaliningrad, its western exclave.

The Russian General Staff said last Thursday that the development of Russia's strategic nuclear forces in 2017 will be maintained at a level that would guarantee the containment of any aggression against it. Moscow is also set on building the capacity of its aerospace defense system further and pushing ahead with efforts to promote its national interests in the Arctic, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.

The previous meeting of the Russia-NATO Council was held in Brussels on July 13. The alliance has repeatedly planned to organize another meeting ever since, but Russia has until now delayed, saying it would only be viable when NATO is ready for a comprehensive dialogue.

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Assad on Aleppo to RT: ‘West is telling Russia we went too far in defeating terrorists’ (EXCLUSIVE)

In an interview to RT, the Syrian President warned against taking statements by western governments at face value, as in Aleppo, they seemed to care more about saving terrorists than civilians. He also slammed the lackluster reaction to ISIS’s onslaught on Palmyra.

President Bashar Assad sat down for an interview with RT’s Maria Finoshina as the war in Syria has hit a new critical point with the Syrian Army’s liberation of Aleppo and Islamic State’s (IS, ISIS/ISIL) return to Palmyra. Here’s a fragment of the interview, which is to be exclusively aired on RT on Wednesday.

READ MORE: ‘Quietest night in months’: RT at Aleppo battlefront as govt forces regain control

RT:Palmyra is another troubled region now, and it’s now [being] taken by ISIS, but we don’t hear a lot of condemnation about it.

President Assad: Exactly, because if it was captured by the government they would be worrying about the heritage. If we liberate Aleppo from the terrorists, the western officials and the mainstream media, they are going to be worrying about the civilians. They do not worry when the opposite happens, when the terrorists are killing those civilians or attacking Palmyra and destroying the human heritage, not only the Syrian heritage.

@RT_com 'Service to mankind' - former US ambassador on Russian & Syrian actions in http://on.rt.com/7xgq

[The Palmyra offensive of] ISIS, if you look at the timing of their attack is related to what is happening in Aleppo. This is the response to what is happening in Aleppo – the advancement of the Syrian Arab Army – and they wanted to undermine the victory in Aleppo and at the same time to distract the Syrian Army from Aleppo to make it more toward Palmyra and stop the advancement. But, of course, it did not work.

RT: Western countries have been repeatedly asking Russia and Iran to put pressure on you to, as they put it, stop the violence. Just recently, six western nations asked Russia and Iran again to put pressure on you, asking for a ceasefire in Aleppo. At the time when your army was progressing, they were asking for a ceasefire.

Assad: It’s always important in politics to read between the lines, not to be literal. It doesn’t matter what they ask. The translation of their statement is for Russia [to] “please, stop the advancement of the Syrian Army against the terrorists.” That is the meaning of their statement, forget about the rest: “You went too far in defeating the terrorists, that shouldn’t happen. You should tell the Syrians to stop this. We have to keep the terrorists and to save them.”

@RT_com Street celebrations in Aleppo on news of Syrian Army retaking east of city – RT reporter http://on.rt.com/7xk4

Assad on Aleppo https://www.facebook.com/RTvids/videos/1407565105920405/

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EU Parliament approves resolution to counter Russian media ‘propaganda’

MEPs in Strasbourg have voted on a non-legislative resolution which calls for the EU to “respond to information warfare by Russia.” RT and Sputnik news agency are alleged to be among the most dangerous "tools" of "hostile propaganda."

The EU Parliament's resolution demonstrates "political degradation" in regard to the "idea of democracy" in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday, commenting on the vote.

Putin pointed out that while "everyone tries to lecture" Russia on democracy, European lawmakers themselves resort to a policy of restrictions, "which is not the best way" to deal with any issues.

"The best approach is an open discussion, in which bright and solid arguments to support one's point of view should be presented," Putin said.

Adding that he hopes the Western move to "counter Russian propaganda" won't lead to serious restrictions, the president congratulated RT and Sputnik journalists on their work.

In the Wednesday vote, 304 MEPs supported the resolution based on the report ‘EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties’, with 179 voting against it and 208 abstaining.

Written by a Polish member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, Anna Fotyga, the report alleged that Moscow aims to "distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyze the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens."

The report suggests that Moscow provides financial support to opposition parties and organizations in EU member states, causing disintegration within the bloc.

At the same time, Russia is accused of "information warfare," with such entities as RT TV channel, Sputnik news agency, Rossotrudnichestvo federal agency and the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) fund alleged to be among its most threatening propaganda "tools."

The document places Russian media organizations alongside terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The report also mentions some "social media and internet trolls" from Russia who are thought to "challenge democratic values."

READ MORE: Finland to host hub combating ‘hybrid’ threats posed by ISIS & Russia – official

It called for the establishment of measures to tackle the perceived Russian propaganda threat, by means of "investing in awareness raising, education, online and local media." It also suggests stronger cooperation between the EU and NATO "on strategic communication."

Sputnik has already appealed to the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and a number of international journalists' organizations and NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders, to take measures to stop what it considers to be interference into freedom of speech in the EU.

"The resolution hits straight at a number of respected media, including Sputnik agency, and has an aim to stop their activity in the EU. Moreover, the resolution bluntly contradicts the  EU's own human rights and freedom of press norms," reads the letter signed by Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.

During the parliamentary debate that preceded the vote, MEPs campaigning for the resolution said the EU was "at war with Russia, on a collision course with each other traveling faster than a jet fighter," and that with an alleged "aim to split Europe, the Kremlin forces its information into our countries."

READ MORE: 'No way': US military bar RT’s video agency from media event in letter likely revealing too much

Before the Wednesday vote, the document had been criticized by some MEPs, who called it both "insane" and "ridiculous." The EU "desperately needs an enemy, be it Russia or any other," that it can blame for any of its own failures, French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhaueser told RT. Spanish MEP Javier Couso Permuy said "it fosters hysteria against Russia," while British MEP James Carver noted the report is "worryingly reminiscent of the Cold War."

Moscow earlier said it would be forced to take reciprocal steps to the EU lawmakers' "unfriendly actions." Having called the MEPs' move "cynical," the Russian Federation Council member on international affairs, Igor Morozov, said that European lawmakers "should be aware that their unfriendly actions" would cause a "very tough response" from Moscow.

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