Cease-fire agreement for southwest Syria• HAMBURG, GERMANY» The United States and Russia have agreed to collaborate on backing a new cease-fire in southwest Syria, to begin Sunday, according to officials from both countries.
The agreement was reached a week ago but was not announced until after President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first faceto-face meeting Friday in Hamburg, at the Group of 20 summit. It would mark the first collaborative operation between Washington and Moscow during the Trump administration.
Similar efforts, albeit on a much more ambitious scale, failed spectacularly under the Obama administration, as agreed cease-fires quickly fell apart. The United States and Russia are on opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, which began almost six years ago.
“This is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Hamburg with Trump, told reporters.
A senior State Department official, who was authorized to speak to reporters only on the condition of anonymity, emphasized the deliberately modest scale of the agreement. “We made a conscious decision to focus on one part of the conflict,” the official said, “a more manageable part of a very, very complicated battle space.”
The cease-fire is to take place in and around the southwestern city of Daraa, in a part of Syria where the front lines are more cleanly drawn and have been relatively stabler between Russian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and U.S.-backed opposition fighters than elsewhere in the country.
Podesta fires back after tweet. Ahead of a full day of meetings Friday at the Group of 20 summit, President Donald Trump fired off one of his more curious tweets of late: A claim that “everyone” there was talking about the role of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, in last year’s Russian email hacking scandal.
“Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!” Trump wrote, apparently referring erroneously to a Democratic National Committee server that contained emails that were hacked and made public.
Podesta fired back in kind on Twitter, calling Trump “our whack job POTUS” and telling him to “get a grip, man.”
Trump’s tweet conflated two parts of the email scandal. Email hacked from the DNC server surfaced last July, while hacked email from Podesta’s personal account was published later by WikiLeaks.
Podesta did not hold a position at the DNC, and he was not in a position to assert control over its email sever. By all accounts, Podesta cooperated fully with the FBI in relation to the hacking of his personal email.
Merkel’s eye roll swamps internet. As the world examined the first face-to-face encounter between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit, the internet turned its attention to a different interaction between two world leaders.
Cameras captured a candid exchange between Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — one that is as humorous as it is fleeting. Putin, with one hand in his pocket and the other emphatically gesturing, appears to be discussing a topic that Merkel seems to find less than riveting based on her reaction. One thing that we can assume is that the two were speaking German, a language that Putin, who lived in East Germany from 1985 to 1990, speaks fluently.
The internet wasted no time in guessing the conversation topic that prompted Merkel’s eye roll.
This is not the first awkward moment Merkel and Putin have shared. In a 2014 New Yorker profile on Merkel that explores her relationship with Putin, George Packer wrote that Putin brought his dog into a 2007 meeting with Merkel, who is afraid of dogs:
“In 2007, during discussions about energy supplies at the Russian president’s residence in Sochi, Putin summoned his black Lab, Koni, into the room where he and Merkel were seated. As the dog approached and sniffed her, Merkel froze, visibly frightened. She’d been bitten once, in 1995, and her fear of dogs couldn’t have escaped Putin, who sat back and enjoyed the moment, legs spread wide. ‘I’m sure it will behave itself,’ he said. Merkel had the presence of mind to reply, in Russian, ‘It doesn’t eat journalists, after all.’ The German press corps was furious on her behalf — ‘ready to hit Putin,’ according to a reporter who was present. Later, Merkel interpreted Putin’s behavior. ‘I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man,’ she told a group of reporters. ‘He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.’ ”