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US, Russia discuss Syria over telephone

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Photo Credit: http://www.iranreview.org

By NewsGram Staff-Writer

Washington: US and Russia held discussions over telephone on Friday regarding the situation in Syria.

 US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo Credit: http://www.usnews.com
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo Credit: http://www.usnews.com

During the discussions, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter emphasized to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoygu that no military reinforcements be provided to the Damascus regime.

“The secretary (of defense) emphasized the importance of pursuing such consultations in parallel with diplomatic talks that would ensure a political transition in Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

Carter told his Russian colleague that “defeating ISIL and ensuring a political transition are the objectives that need to be pursued at the same time”.

The Pentagon has confirmed that Russia is trying to establish an air base in the western Syrian city of Latakia to begin bringing in personnel and heavy artillery to provide the military support so vital for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, which already has a naval base in Tartus on the Mediterranean, will have a military presence in the Middle East unprecedented since the 1970s.

Carter, who was speaking with Shoygu for the first time since the deployment became known, said through his spokesman that the conversation was “constructive” and that they “talked about areas where the United States and Russia’s perspectives overlap and areas of divergence”.

“They agreed to further discuss mechanisms for deconfliction in Syria and the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) campaign,” Cook said.

Up to now, Secretary of State John Kerry has led talks with Moscow to express Washington’s concern about Russia’s mobilizations and to line up both governments with a unified Syrian strategy.

The US has tried to apply diplomatic pressure for a negotiated departure of Assad since the civil war began in 2011, but the elements of the opposition acceptable to the West have been weakened by the advance of jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) and the al-Nusra Front, which are also fighting against Damascus.

The US government has spent more than a year leading an international coalition that has bombed IS positions in Syria and Iraq. It has also been involved in training the so-called moderate rebels to eventually represent an alternative to Assad.

But, the plan to train opposition forces are yet to yield any results, and this week the head of the US Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, admitted that the number of American-trained rebels who are actively fighting against IS in Syria number no more than “four or five”.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Donald Trump Planning to meet Putin during his Asia tour

Donald Trump's first trip to Asia is the longest international tour.

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
  • US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.

Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.

The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.

Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)

 

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Kurdish Red Crescent: IS Attacks Kill at Least 50 in East Syria

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Syrian Democratic Forces
A female fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces stands near a military tank in the village of Abu Fas, Hasaka province, Syria. voa

Islamic State suicide attackers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack on Thursday among a group of refugees in northeast Syria, a medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said.

A large number of people were also injured by the three car bombs, the source said.

The attack took place at Abu Fas, near the border of Deir el-Zour and Hasaka provinces, said a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said earlier that at least 18 people had been killed.

The dead included refugees fleeing the fighting in Deir el-Zour as well as members of the Kurdish Asayish security force, the observatory reported. Syrian state television said dozens had been killed in the attack.

The jihadist group has lost swaths of its territory in both Syria and Iraq this year and is falling back on the towns and villages of the Euphrates valley southeast of Deir el-Zour.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is pressing it from the north, and a rival offensive by the Syrian army, supported by allies including Iran and Russia, is attacking it from the west.

On Wednesday, Islamic State said it had carried out an attack in the capital, Damascus, where three suicide bombers detonated their devices near a police headquarters, killing two people and wounding six.

Aid agencies have warned that the fighting in eastern Syria is the worst in the country this year and that airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.(VOA)