London: Talks held between British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry, displayed different attitudes of UK and the US towards Russia’s involvement in the Syria crisis.
After the meeting at Hammond’s official residence on Saturday, Kerry said defence secretaries of the US and Russia had held extensive talks via telephone on the fight against the IS, reported Xinhua news agency.
Kerry, who is on his three-day visit to Britain, said, “would we welcome Russian help in going against IS? Obviously. We have talked about it for some period of time.”
“But the other part of the equation is Assad (President of Syria) and how you resolve the fact that he is a magnet for foreign fighters to come to the region,” he added.
The British government had been clear that if it is believed airstrikes in Syria were necessary it would go back to parliament for a vote, Hammond said.
“We keep that situation under continuous review and we will continue to talk to our allies about the military situation in the round,” he said.
Hammond said the situation in Syria becomes more complicated because of the Russian engagement.
“I think we need to discuss this as part of a much bigger problem: the migration pressures, the humanitarian crisis in Syria as well as the need to defeat IS,” he added.
Kerry described Russia’s new focus on fighting IS militants as an opportunity to push toward a political settlement and said the “root cause” of the current migrant crisis in Europe was the violence in Syria.
He said the US is prepared to negotiate, but have not known if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia were prepared to a negotiation.
The US has called for Assad to go, but on Saturday Kerry reaffirmed the US position that this removal “does not have to be on day one or month one… There is a process by which all the parties have to come together to reach an understanding of how this can best be achieved,” according to BBC.
He said the talks in London laid the groundwork for forthcoming meetings at the UN over Syria. He will leave for Berlin on Sunday.
The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Chechen group and five people, including at least three Russians, over allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and the torture of LGBTI people.
The sanctions against the Terek Special Rapid Response Team in the Chechen Republic and the five were announced by the U.S. Treasury under the Magnitsky Act. They included suspects in the deaths of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky and Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
The 2012 Magnitsky Act is named after the 37-year-old Russian auditor and imposes visa bans and asset freezes on officials linked to his death in prison 2009.
Those targeted on Thursday included Elena Anatolievna Trikulya and Gennady Vyacheslavovich Karlov, members of the Russian state’s Investigative Committee, who the U.S. said “participated in efforts to conceal the legal liability for the detention, abuse or death” of Magnitsky.
Abuzayed Vismuradov, commander of the Terek Special Rapid Response Team in Chechnya, was accused of “being responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” against those seeking to expose illegal activity by Russian government officials.
The U.S. Treasury said Vismuradov was in charge of an operation that “illegally detained and tortured individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived LGBTI status.”
LGBTI is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.
The Treasury named Sergey Leonidovich Kossiev as being responsible for extrajudicial killings and torture as head of a penal colony in the Republic of Karelia. The fifth person, Ruslan Geremeyev, was accused of acting on behalf of the head of Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, in a matter relating to extrajudicial killings and torture.
The Treasury statement said Russian investigators had twice tried to bring charges against Geremeyev as the possible organizer of the 2015 slaying of Nemtsov, but were blocked by the head of the Investigative Committee.
Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, was shot and killed near the Kremlin in 2015.
In 2017, a court sentenced a man to 20 years in jail for his murder, but Nemtsov’s allies called the investigation a cover-up and said those who ordered the assassination remained at large.
The Russian Embassy in Washington said in a statement that U.S. sanctions under the Magnitsky Act “are at odds with the international law.” It said Russia would respond with “reciprocal measures.”
The Magnitsky sanctions have been a point of tension between Moscow and Washington, which are far apart on a wide range of global issues and U.S. allegations of Russian interference in U.S. elections.
The latest U.S. move followed a frosty visit to Russia this week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Washington would brook no interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and wanted Moscow to take action to show there would be no repeat of its 2016 meddling.
Magnitsky was arrested and died after discovering a $230 million tax fraud scheme, according to U.S. authorities. His supporters say the Russian state killed him by denying him adequate medical care after he was imprisoned on tax evasion charges. The Kremlin denies the allegation.
The Treasury statement said officials in Chechnya had launched a series of purges of people they believed to be LGBTI and several were believed to have died as a result.
“They have rounded up dozens of people on these grounds, some of whom have disappeared, with others returned to their families barely alive from beatings and with their captors outing them to families and encouraging the families to carry out so-called honor killings,” the statement said. (VOA)