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Russia criticizes U.S. policy on Syria ahead of Kerry Moscow go to

MOSCOW Russia stepped up its criticism of U.S. policy on Syria on the eve of a check out to Moscow by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying the United States had not shown it was prepared to cooperate fully in the struggle against Islamic State militants.

Russia would continue to urge Washington to rethink its policy of “dividing terrorists into excellent and bad ones”, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated in a statement on Monday, ahead of Kerry’s visit to Moscow, which is scheduled for Dec. 15.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly Writing by Dmitry Solovyov Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Turkey says its patience with Russia ‘has a limit’: newspaper

ROME Turkey’s foreign minister stated Ankara’s patience with Russia “has a limit” right after Moscow’s “exaggerated” reaction to a weekend naval incident between the two countries, an Italian newspaper reported on Monday.

A Russian destroyer fired warning shots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean on Sunday to steer clear of a collision and summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident..

“Ours was only a fishing boat, it appears to me that the reaction of the Russian naval ship was exaggerated,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview.

“Russia and Turkey certainly have to re-establish the relations of trust that we have always had, but our patience has a limit,” Cavusoglu stated.

The incident is most likely to heighten tensions in between the two nations who are at odds more than Syria and Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane last month.

Cavusoglu stated Russia had currently “put itself in a ridiculous position” with accusations by its President Vladimir Putin that Turkey had shot down the jet to defend oil supplies from Islamic State.

“No-a single believed it” he mentioned.

He also criticized Russia’s military intervention in Syria, saying it was aimed at propping up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, not combating Islamic State.

“Sadly Russia is not in Syria to fight terrorists,” he mentioned, adding that only 8 % of its air strikes had been aimed at Islamic State whilst 92 % were against other groups hostile to Assad.

Cavusoglu also stated air strikes had been not sufficient to defeat Islamic State and soldiers on the ground have been essential, according to the interview.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Putin says Russia backs Free of charge Syrian Army alongside Assad troops

MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia supports the opposition Cost-free Syrian Army, providing it with air assistance, arms and ammunition in joint operations with Syrian troops against Islamist militants.

His statement appeared to be the first time Moscow mentioned it was really supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents in the fight against Islamic State forces. Putin said last month the Russian air force had hit a number of “terrorist” targets offered by the Free Syrian Army.

Western and Arab states carrying out air strikes against Islamic State for a lot more than a year say that Russian jets have primarily hit other rebel forces in the west of Syria.

“The function of our aviation group assists in uniting the efforts of government troops and the Totally free Syrian Army,” Putin told an annual meeting at the defense ministry.

“Now several of its units numbering more than 5,000 troops are engaged in offensive actions against terrorists, alongside normal forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa,” he mentioned, referring to the Totally free Syrian Army.

“We support it from the air, as effectively as the Syrian army, we help them with weapons, ammunition and offer material support.”

Putin said strikes by Russia’s air force and navy had inflicted heavy damage on the infrastructure of Islamic State, which controls large areas of eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu mentioned, however, that the influence of Islamic State was escalating in Syria, where militants handle about 70 % of the country.

The number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria totals about 60,000, Shoigu mentioned, and there is a threat of violence spilling more than into post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Speaking to his generals, Putin issued a veiled warning to Turkey, whose downing of a Russian bomber jet near the Syrian-Turkish border final month sent bilateral relations to a freezing point and led Moscow to impose economic sanctions to Istanbul.

“I want to warn those who may possibly again attempt to stage provocations against our troops,” he stated.

“I order you to act in an very tough way. Any targets threatening Russia’s (military) group or our land infrastructure must be immediately destroyed,” Putin told the generals.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier on Friday called on Russia for calm, but said Turkey’s patience is not unlimited.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov Further reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Vladimir Soldatkin Editing by Christian Lowe and Tom Heneghan)

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Russia attempting to carry out ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Syria’s Latakia: Turkish PM

Planet | Wed Dec 9, 2015 10:10am EST

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ISTANBUL Russia is attempting to carry out “ethnic cleansing” in Syria’s northern Latakia province, forcing its Turkmen and Sunni population out to develop a protected haven and shield Russian and Syrian bases, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated.

“Russia is attempting to make ethnic cleansing in northern Latakia to force all Turkmen and Sunni population who do not have great relations with the regime, they want to expel them, they want to ethnically cleanse this region so that regime and Russian bases in Latakia and Tartus are protected,” he told members of the foreign media in Istanbul on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Nick Tattersall Writing by Daren Butler)

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Russia says it hit Islamic State with submarine-launched missile for initial time

MOSCOW Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated on Tuesday that Russia had for the initial time struck Islamic State targets in Syria with missiles fired from a submarine in the Mediterranean.

“The targets have been two large terrorist positions in the territory of Raqqa,” Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting, adding that the Calibre missiles had been fired from the submarine Rostov-on-Don.

“We can say with total self-confidence that relatively significant harm was accomplished to weapons stores and a factory for preparing mines and, naturally, oil infrastructure.”

Shoigu mentioned Russia had informed Israel and the United States in advance of its program to launch missiles from a submarine.

He mentioned that, over the previous three days, Russia’s air force had flown far more than 300 sorties more than Syria and struck more than 600 targets of numerous varieties.

Russian bombers flying over Syria had been being accompanied by fighter jets, as Putin had ordered, he added.

Russia started intervening straight in Syria’s civil war at the end of September with air strikes in assistance of its ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

But the intervention has had unintended consequences, notably when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that it mentioned had strayed into Turkish airspace, an allegation that Russia denies.

Shoigu presented the flight recorder of the downed jet to Putin at the meeting.

Putin thanked Russian particular services and Syrian government troops for recovering it, and mentioned it would allow specialists to determine exactly where exactly the Russian plane was located when it was hit. He mentioned it need to be opened only in the presence of international professionals, “to cautiously document every thing”.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Anton Zverev Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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China, Russia oppose U.N. council meeting on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS China and Russia oppose U.S. plans to hold a unique meeting this week on human rights in North Korea, which has been accused by a U.N. inquiry of abuses comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, council diplomats said on Monday.

The United States, president of the Security Council this month, mentioned final Friday the meeting would take place on Thursday at two:30 p.m. (1930 GMT). Senior U.N. officials are anticipated to brief the council.

Numerous diplomats told Reuters each China and Russia had informed the council of their opposition to the meeting, which has the backing of nine of the 15 council members – Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Britain and the United States.

“China informed council members that the Security Council has no company with human rights but must appear at matters of international peace and safety,” one particular diplomat said, summarizing the Chinese complaint.

Russia, diplomats stated, raised a procedural complaint, noting the United States had not raised the problem in the course of a formal discussion final week on the council’s plan of perform for December.

The Security Council final discussed the concern a year ago.

Final month, China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, said it would be a “undesirable thought” for the Security Council to hold such a meeting, adding the council “is not about human rights.”

The Safety Council added human rights in North Korea to its agenda final year, in spite of objections by China that led to a uncommon procedural vote. Beijing is a sturdy ally of Pyongyang.

Two diplomats mentioned a new procedural vote was probably offered the objections of China and Russia to the scheduled meeting. They stated Russia and China would most likely lose any procedural vote simply because they can’t use their veto energy in such circumstances.

The missions of China and North Korea have so far not responded to requests for comment on the planned meeting. A spokesman for Russia’s mission declined to comment.

North Korea has denied allegations of systematic human rights abuses, saying such charges are portion of a U.S.-led plot to destabilize the country.

A year ago this month, the 193-member U.N. Basic Assembly urged the Security Council to take into account referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court soon after a U.N. Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in the hermit Asian state.

China is likely to veto any Safety Council bid to refer North Korea to the ICC, diplomats said.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Russia expects Iran nuclear deal to be implemented in January

VIENNA Russia’s envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog stated on Monday he anticipated a historic nuclear deal amongst Iran and planet powers to be implemented in January, top to sanctions against Tehran getting lifted.

At talks in Vienna, senior officials from those key powers discussed with Iran a text they have prepared that would close the International Atomic Power Agency’s 12-year investigation of Tehran’s previous activities whilst guaranteeing the IAEA could still verify for signs of suspicious behavior.

Beneath the deal, Iran must scale back its nuclear system, like its stockpile of low-enriched uranium – which it plans to do by means of a swap for non-enriched forms of uranium with Russia, to remove issues it could be put to developing nuclear bombs.

That swap will be done prior to the finish of the year, the Russian envoy to the IAEA, Vladimir Voronkov, told reporters.

Iran has stated it will fulfill all its commitments under the July agreement only if the IAEA’s Board of Governors passes a resolution formally closing its investigation into Iran’s nuclear past when the board meets on Dec. 15.

The draft resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors drawn up by the key powers — France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China — and sent to other states on Monday contained provisions that both sides could claim as victories.

“(The board) also notes that all the activities in the road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding troubles regarding Iran’s nuclear plan were implemented in accordance with the agreed schedule and further notes that this closes the Board’s consideration of this item,” the text said.

The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, also said the board would sooner or later no longer be seized of “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Safety Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, referring to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That phrase, and a shorter version prior to the relevant U.N. Safety Council resolutions have been passed, has been the title of the IAEA’s standard reports on its investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities because 2003.

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The draft resolution did, nevertheless, also give for the board to tackle a new item covering “implementation and verification and monitoring” of the July deal in Iran, and for the IAEA to offer quarterly reports on Iran’s implementation of its commitments below the accord.

More generally, it requests the head of the agency to “report, in this regard … to the Board of Governors for proper action, and in parallel to the United Nations Security Council, at any time if the Director General has affordable grounds to believe there is an issue of concern.”

Earlier on Monday, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, who met with senior officials from significant powers in Vienna, told Reuters soon after the meetings he was happy with the draft resolution and anticipated it to be adopted subsequent week.

For sanctions on Iran to be lifted, the IAEA have to initial verify that the Islamic Republic has honored all its commitments below the July deal, like dismantling large numbers of its centrifuges for uranium enrichment and filling parts of its Arak nuclear site with cement.

The IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear previous, which was issued last week, strongly recommended Tehran had a secret nuclear weapons system before 2003, but, in a sign of the shift in relations since July, Western powers voiced small concern.

Araqchi mentioned Iran rejected the findings of the report about its plan ahead of 2003, but added that, in Iran’s view, overall the document showed the peaceful nature of Iran’s atomic activities.

“We think that primarily based on this final assessment the Board of Governors should close the so-called PMD issue,” he told reporters, referring to the report into what is also known as the “attainable military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear past.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Turkish bank operations in Russia to be excluded from Moscow sanctions -sources

ISTANBUL Dec 7 Turkish banks will be excluded from Russian sanctions, market sources told Reuters on Monday, escaping a crackdown by Moscow that could cost Turkey up to $ 9 billion in retaliation for the shooting down of a Russian jet final month.

The Turkish Banking Association has told banks that their Russian operations will not face sanctions from Moscow, citing information provided by Denizbank, the Turkish unit of Russia’s Sberbank, two banking sources mentioned.

Denizbank declined to comment.

An official for the Turkish Banking Association confirmed it had received such details from Denizbank and forwarded it to other Turkish banks, but declined to give additional information. (Reporting by Ebru Tuncay Writing by Ece Toksabay Editing by David Dolan and David Holmes)

Russia to consider Afghanistan’s request for arms provide ‘carefully’

MOSCOW Russia will contemplate Afghanistan’s request for arms provide in a cautious manner, but that activity belongs very first of all to the United States, RIA news agency cited Kremlin’s specific envoy to Afghanistan as saying on Monday.

Zamir Kabulov told the agency that Russia has currently received some requests from Afghanistan.

“They are becoming worked out, but all will be decided proportionally, reasonably and carefully,” Kabulov mentioned. “Let the Americans take care of the supplies as they are there with NATO forces – this is the their difficulty very first of all.”

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly editing by Polina Devitt)

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Russia says U.S. refused guarantees for Ukraine’s liabilities

MOSCOW Russia has received an official refusal from the U.S. government to give guarantees for Ukraine’s liabilities, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday, citing Russia’s Finance Ministry.

Russia and Ukraine are at loggerheads over a $ 3 billion Ukrainian Eurobond held by Russia and maturing on Dec. 20.

Russia has presented to restructure the debt in equal installments over the next 3 years if the West supplies guarantees. But Ukraine has included it amongst the sovereign and sovereign-guaranteed bonds to be restructured in a deal with a group of its largest creditors.

“This week we received an official refusal from the U.S. government to give guarantees on Ukraine’s liabilities. In this regard, there is practically nothing left but for us to file a legal case against Ukraine if the debtor does not fulfill its liabilities totally on Dec. 20,” RIA news agency cited the Finance Ministry as saying in a statement.

The ministry added that Russia had offered Ukraine better terms than these the International Monetary Fund had asked for.

Ukraine is restructuring its debts in order to plug a $ 15 billion funding gap below an IMF-led $ 40 billion bailout system.

The Eurobond is particularly contentious as it was issued by the government of former president Viktor Yanukovich in late 2013 as public protests took off against his swing away from association with the European Union towards deeper ties with Russia.

Unrest and bloodshed ultimately forced Yanukovich to flee.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning Editing by Toby Chopra)

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