Putin dis­cusses Idlib with Rus­sia’s se­cu­rity coun­cil

Syria, Jor­dan in talks to re­open key border cross­ing, re­sume bi­lat­eral trade

Tehran Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib with mem­bers of Rus­sia’s Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Fri­day, the RIA news agency cited the Krem­lin as say­ing.

Putin told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil he was con­cerned by mil­i­tant ac­tiv­ity in the last ma­jor rebel-held strong­hold in Syria, Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as say­ing.

Mean­while, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said Fri­day that Moscow would keep bomb­ing mil­i­tant tar­gets in Syria’s Idlib Prov­ince if need be, but would also open hu­man­i­tar­ian cor­ri­dors to al­low civil­ians to flee, the In­ter­fax news agency re­ported.

Lavrov, who was speak­ing in Berlin, was cited as say­ing that the Rus­sian air force would strike what he called ter­ror­ist weapons-mak­ing fa­cil­i­ties as and when it found out about them, but would also en­cour­age lo­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deals.

Syria, Jor­dan in talks to re­open key border cross­ing

Syr­ian and Jor­da­nian of­fi­cials have started talks to re­open the key border cross­ing of al-Nas­sib af­ter a three-year hia­tus in a bid to re-es­tab­lish bi­lat­eral trade and help re­vive the econ­omy of war-torn Syria.

The first round of talks was held on Wed­nes­day, with both coun­tries agree­ing to con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions over the prac­ti­cal ar­range­ments, from cus­toms to se­cu­rity, in or­der to re­open the cross­ing in south­ern Syria, an in­formed source said on Thurs­day.

“The meet­ings will con­tinue to put a com­plete view of all the ar­range­ments linked to re­open­ing the cross­ings in the com­ing pe­riod,” the source told Reuters.

Al-Nas­sib border cross­ing was closed in 2015 fol­low­ing at­tacks on the Jor­da­nian se­cu­rity forces by for­eign-backed ter­ror­ists, but the Syr­ian army man­aged to re­take the vi­tal route last July.

Jor­dan’s For­eign Min­is­ter Ayman Safadi said last month that his coun­try wants to open its bor­ders with Syria, but was wait­ing for a re­sponse from Da­m­as­cus.

An­other Jor­da­nian of­fi­cial said the al-Nas­sib cross­ing could open by the end of this year.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment also hopes that the re­open­ing of the key cross­ing could help the war-torn coun­try re­vive its econ­omy and re­build it­self.

Ef­forts to re­store peace and sta­bil­ity to Syria come as gov­ern­ment forces have man­aged to purge ter­ror­ists and anti-gov­ern­ment mil­i­tants from most of the coun­try, and are prepar­ing for a full-scale of­fen­sive to re­take the north­west­ern Idlib prov­ince, the last strong­hold of for­eign-backed ter­ror­ists.

Is­rael ends its ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian’ aid for Syr­i­ans

As the Syr­ian army re­gains full con­trol of the coun­try’s south­west­ern bor­ders with the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, the Is­raeli regime has de­clared the end of what it called “hu­man­i­tar­ian” aid it used to of­fer to Syria’s “civil­ians”.

What the Is­raeli army has de­scribed as its “hu­man­i­tar­ian” as­sis­tance to “civil­ians” in its Thurs­day state­ment is in­deed the arms and med­i­cal sup­port it of­fered to the Tak­firi ter­ror­ists in the oc­cu­pied Golan Heights and else­where in Is­rael. While Is­rael claims it al­ways sought to stay out of the war in Syria, ev­i­dence shows the regime has been overtly and covertly sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist fight­ing against the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment. Is­rael has been pro­vid­ing the Tak­firi ter­ror­ists in the Golan Heights with a steady flow of funds and med­i­cal sup­plies as part of Tel Aviv’s in­volve­ment in the bloody con­flict.

Marines hold eight days of drills with mil­i­tants in south­ern Syria

Else­where, the United States marines have held eight days of un­prece­dented mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with the U.S.-backed mil­i­tants in south­ern Syria in an at­tempt to send a “strong mes­sage” to Iran and Rus­sia, a se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said.

Colonel Sean Ryan, a U.S. mil­i­tary spokesman, de­scribed the drills as “a show of force,” say­ing that the Pen­tagon had no­ti­fied Rus­sia through “de-con­flic­tion” chan­nels to pre­vent “mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion or es­ca­late ten­sion”.

“The ex­er­cise was con­ducted to re­in­force our ca­pa­bil­i­ties and en­sure we are ready to re­spond to any threat to our forces within our area of op­er­a­tions,’” he noted.

The eight days of drills ended this week at the U.S. mil­i­tary out­post in Tanf, lo­cated 24 km to the west from the al-Tanf border cross­ing be­tween Syria and Iraq in Homs Gov­er­norate, said Colonel Muhanad al Talaa, the com­man­der of the U.S.-backed Maghawir al Thawra mil­i­tant group.

He told Reuters the war games were the first such ex­er­cises with live-fire air and ground as­sault, in­volv­ing hun­dreds of the U.S. troops and mil­i­tants op­er­at­ing against the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad.

Thawra claimed the drills were meant to send what he de­scribed as “a strong mes­sage to Rus­sia and Iran” that the Amer­i­cans and the mil­i­tants in­tended to stay and con­front any threats to their pres­ence.

The U.S. pres­ence in Tanf mil­i­tary base is il­le­gal and lacks the per­mis­sion of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment. Da­m­as­cus, Moscow, and Tehran have re­peat­edly de­nounced the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syria and called on the U.S. to with­draw its marines from the base. How­ever, the U.S. has so far re­fused to pull its forces out, and even moved to de­ploy hun­dreds of more marines in Tanf ear­lier this month.

The new forces have re­port­edly joined “spe­cial op­er­a­tions troops al­ready based in the gar­ri­son” and are go­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the drills amid an es­ca­la­tion of U.S.-Rus­sian ten­sions in Syria and Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary ex­er­cises in the Mediter­ranean.

Mean­while, the CNN cited sev­eral U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials as say­ing last Fri­day that Rus­sia had warned the Pen­tagon twice in the past weeks that its forces, to­gether with Syr­ian troops, were pre­pared to wage an attack on ter­ror­ists in the area where dozens of the U.S. troops are sta­tioned - in­clud­ing those in Tanf gar­ri­son.

Re­act­ing to Moscow’s warn­ings, the U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials “bluntly warned Rus­sia and Syria not to go for­ward with an attack within a 35-mile-wide se­cu­rity zone that the U.S. main­tains around Tanf,” Task & Pur­pose fur­ther re­ported.

The U.S. il­le­gally built the mil­i­tary out­post in early 2016 un­der the pre­text of fight­ing Daesh ter­ror­ists, but it has de­clared a 55 km-ra­dius “de-con­flic­tion zone” off-lim­its to oth­ers, pro­vid­ing a safe haven for at least 50,000 mil­i­tants and their fam­i­lies in the Ruk­ban camp that lies within it.

This is while the U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had pre­vi­ously stated that he wanted Amer­i­can troops out of Syria as soon as pos­si­ble and has also called for redi­rect­ing mil­lions of dol­lars meant to help re­build Syria to other mil­i­tary projects.

Rus­sian and Ira­nian mil­i­tary forces are in Syria at the of­fi­cial re­quest of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment. This is while the U.S. has in­volved it­self in the Syr­ian con­flict through an overt cam­paign meant to train and sup­port anti-Da­m­as­cus ter­ror­ists. The gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad has re­peat­edly de­nounced the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence in the coun­try and called on Wash­ing­ton to end what it has de­scribed as an “un­in­vited ag­gres­sion” against Syria.

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