RUSSIA and the US have agreed on a number of ‘critical’ issues, particularly with regard to Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following talks in Moscow.
‘The US stands ready to work with Russia,’ Kerry told journalists after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov on Tuesday. He added that the two countries’ officials had ‘a productive day’ and the discussions had been ‘constructive’.
‘Despite our countries’ differences, we demonstrated that when the United States and Russia pull together in the same direction, progress can be made,’ Kerry said. Calling the effort ‘good diplomacy,’ the top US diplomat said that the whole global community benefits from such cooperation.
Moscow and Washington confirmed their previous agreements to work together to fight ‘the evil’ of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, Lavrov told journalists, adding that some ‘practical steps’ to advance this effort had been agreed upon at the meeting.
‘We confirmed the agreements reached by the Russian and US militaries, including the agreements that also apply to the US-led coalition working against ISIL, and in practical terms agreed on some further steps which will help make our parallel work more coordinated and effective,’ the Russian foreign minister said.
‘We see Syria fundamentally very similarly, we want the same outcomes, we see the same dangers, we understand the same challenges,’ Kerry said. He added that the two nations have been ‘honest with differences’, but in general agree that the crisis in the Middle Eastern country ‘requires political process’.
‘Russia and the United States agree that you can’t defeat Daesh without also de-escalating the fight in Syria,’ the Secretary of State said, adding that both Moscow and Washington are ‘focused on political process’ and that ‘Syrians will be making decisions on the future of Syria.’
Kerry also said that Moscow and Washington have found ‘common ground’ on which opposition groups should participate in the Syrian peace talks. RT’s Ilya Petrenko confronted Kerry with a question asking him about threats to isolate Russia, which were repeatedly voiced by Washington in the past. The head of the US State Department replied that there was no such US policy in place.
‘We don’t seek to isolate Russia as a matter of policy,’ Kerry said. ‘But we have consistently said that the world is better off when Russia and the US find common ground and an ability to be able to work together.’
Meanwhile, Lavrov has confirmed that a meeting of world powers on Syria pencilled in for New York on Friday would go ahead. A project for a resolution on Syria is expected to be ready for presentation to the UN Security Council after Friday’s meeting, Lavrov said.
‘We met here today not as Russia and the US behind the back of other members of the international group on Syrian support, but as co-chairs of this group,’ Lavrov said, adding that only an ‘inclusive format’ and the collective efforts of all the members of the Syria group can lead to success in solving the crisis in the region.
Russia and the US are seeking solutions to the most critical crises together, Putin said earlier at the start of the meeting, adding that he ‘is happy for the opportunity to meet and talk’. ”Today you’ve had comprehensive talks at Russia’s Foreign Ministry,’ Putin said to Kerry, referring to an earlier meeting with Lavrov. ‘Minister Lavrov has reported to me in detail on your proposals and on some issues that require additional discussions. I’m very happy with the opportunity to meet with you and talk.’
The crisis in Ukraine was also on the agenda, with both Russian and US officials reiterating their support for the Minsk agreements. ‘There are concrete ideas on how to most actively implement’ the peace deal in the region, Lavrov said, adding that Moscow hopes to remain in close contact with its US partners concerning the matter.
When obligations stated in the accord are met, ‘US and EU sanctions can be rolled back,’ Kerry said, adding that he had had ‘a good discussion about Ukraine’ with President Putin. ‘It is always better to be able to sit down in person and spend the significant amount of time that we were able to do today to hash out details and not feel the pressure of another meeting at a multi-level event,’ the top US diplomat told reporters after more than three and a half hours of talks with Putin and Lavrov, after thanking them ‘for the amount of time both of them have afforded’.
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Russia, Celeste Wallander, and US Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, were also present at the Kremlin meeting. On Russia’s side, Sergey Lavrov and Putin’s aide Yury Ushakov also attended.
This year, Kerry has already paid a visit to Putin in Russia. In May, the two met at the Russian president’s Sochi residence. That meeting was originally planned for some 90 minutes, but lasted for over four hours. Prior to the Kremlin meeting, Kerry was spotted wandering along the tourist hot-spot Arbat Street in central Moscow. The US Secretary of State did some souvenir shopping and was warmly welcomed by locals and fellow visitors who recognised him in the street.
• A TURKISH MP faces treason charges after telling RT that ISIS used Turkey for transiting sarin
A treason investigation has been launched against a Turkish MP who alleged in an exclusive interview with RT that Islamic State jihadists delivered deadly sarin gas to Syria through Turkey.
Ankara’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office opened the case against Istanbul MP Eren Erdem of Republican People’s Party (CHP) after his interview about sarin was aired on RT on Monday. ‘Chemical weapon materials were brought to Turkey and put together in ISIS camps in Syria, which was known as the Iraqi Al-Qaeda at that time.’
Erdem noted that the chemicals used for the production of weapons did not originate from Turkey.
‘All basic materials are purchased from Europe. Western institutions should question themselves about these relations. Western sources know very well who carried out the sarin gas attack in Syria,’ Erdem told RT.
As the Turkish media reported on Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office is planning to send a summary of proceedings to the Ministry of Justice on Thursday. Following that, the summary may be forwarded to the Turkish parliament, which could vote to strip Erdem of his parliamentary immunity.
On Tuesday, MP Erdem issued a written statement in his defence, saying he had become the target of a smear campaign because of his statements made in parliament. As for his accusations about Turkish businessmen being involved in supplying Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) with the poisonous gas sarin and other reactants needed for chemical warfare, Erdem maintained this statement was made based on the results of a Turkish court investigation in 2013.
Erdem revealed that five Turkish citizens had been arrested by the Adana Chief Prosecutor”s Office as a result of an investigation coded 2013/139. A Syrian national was prosecuted in Turkey for procuring chemical agents for Islamist groups in Syria. At the same time, Erdem noted all the persons arrested within the framework of the 2013/139 investigation were released a week later.
In his statement Eren Erdem claimed he had received death threats over social media following the publication of his interview to RT. Eren Erdem said that the Turkish paramilitary organisation Ottoman Hearths has published his home address on Twitter in an effort to enable at an attack on his house.
‘I am being targeted with death threats because I am patriotically opposed to something that tramples on my country’s prestige,’ MP Erdem said. In an interview to Turkey’s Kanal 24 on Tuesday, Cem Küçük, a columnist at the pro-government Star daily, said that Erdem’s claims about sarin gas should be regarded as treason. Erdem should be stripped of his parliamentary immunity to ‘pay for his deeds’ Today’s Zaman cited Küçük as saying.
The Turkish public is ‘very much polarised’ and those supporting the government and followers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) make up ‘about half of the country’, Hisyar Ozsoy, Turkish MP for leftist HDP party, told RT.
‘They really do not care about what is happening in terms of freedom of expression,’ Ozsoy said, adding that ‘anybody who is critical of the government is facing incredible pressure: indictments, court cases, even imprisonments.’
The Turkish government – and the president in particular – use polarisation of the Turkish community as a mode of carrying out politics that very much worries the other half of the citizenry.
The most widely-reported chemical attack in Syria took place in the early hours of August 21, 2013, in Ghouta, on the outer fringes of Damascus.
Rockets containing sarin gas were reportedly fired, killing more than 1,400 people, including no fewer than 426 children. It was on the very day a UN team of inspectors arrived in the city to investigate the alleged March 19 chemical attack in Khan al-Assal, northern Syria.