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US, Russia discuss Syria over telephone

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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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China, US Set To Take Action Against Each Other

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng's arrest

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USA, China,
President Donald Trump with China's President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting, Dec. 1, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA

China and the US are set to take action against each other as tensions escalate over trade, cyber hacking and espionage as senior American law enforcement officials identified Beijing as the most serious threat to Washington’s national security, officials said.

China’s methods of non-traditional espionage, including their use of ordinary Chinese expatriates instead of spies at universities and businesses, and intellectual property theft, were explained by the officials from the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security who briefed US lawmakers on Wednesday, CNN reported.

“As the US proceeds a whole of society response to this threat, we must address the vulnerabilities within our system while preserving our values and the open, free and fair principles that have made us thrive,” E.W. Priestap, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Assistant Director of Counter-intelligence told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the US, but the future of the world.”

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) top national security official told lawmakers on Wednesday the administration was reacting to China’s “steadily increasing” economic espionage activity, which costs the US an estimated $225 billion a year.

From 2011 to 2018, more than 90 per cent of the DOJ’s cases alleging economic espionage by a state have involved China, and more than two-thirds of trade secret thefts have a nexus to China, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

“From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds, China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China’s publicly announced strategic goals,” Demers said. “The play book is simple: rob, replicate and replace.”

Priestap and his colleagues testified hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in an interview with Fox News that the US believes Beijing was behind the massive cyber-attack on the Marriott hotel chain, CNN reported.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the assault was part of a broader Chinese operation that also targeted health insurers and the security clearance files of millions of Americans.

Also Read- Bug Spotted in Microsoft Office 365, Outlook

Those disclosures came a day after President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to use Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou who was arrested in Canada for violating US sanctions on Iran as a bargaining chip in his trade war with Beijing, which for now is in a 90-day pause.

A Canadian judge on Tuesday night granted Meng a $7.5 million bail, while she awaits extradition to the US.

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng’s arrest. (IANS)