Ammon News, World

US expresses ‘sorrow’ over plane downed in Syria, Russia summons Israel envoy


[9/19/2018 7:40:56 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Russia on Tuesday summoned the Israeli ambassador after a Russian plane was shot down over Syria, an incident Moscow has blamed on Israel’s air force. “The Israeli ambassador has been summoned to the foreign ministry over the situation,” a ministry representative told AFP. Ambassador Gary Koren’s deputy Keren Cohen Gat, currently the charge d’affaires at the Israeli embassy, went to the foreign ministry on Tuesday for a meeting of about 30 minutes. She refused to comment to media as she exited the building. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the US “expresses its sorrow” for the death of the Russian plane crew downed in Syria. Pompeo said the incident underscores “the need to end Iran’s transit of dangerous weapons systems through Syria.” The Russian Il-20 warplane with 15 people on board was shot down by the Syrian air defense late Monday. Russia’s defense ministry said “full blame” rests with the Israeli aircraft which carried out strikes on Syria’s Latakia province and “used the Russian plane as a cover”. Israel’s military has expressed “sorrow” over deaths of Russian servicemen, though denied its planes had already left Syrian airspace when the Russian plane was taken down. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the matter with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, warning that Moscow could retaliate with unspecified “measures”. *AFP

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Syrian rebel official says Idlib deal ‘ends Assad’s dream of total control’


[9/18/2018 6:33:02 AM]

AMMONNEWS - A senior Syrian rebel official said on Tuesday a deal between Russia and Turkey to create a buffer zone in Idlib had ended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's hopes of regaining full control of his country. "The Idlib deal preserves lives of civilians and their direct targeting by the regime. It buries Assad's dreams of imposing his full control over Syria," Mustafa Sejari, a prominent Free Syria Army (FSA) official told Reuters.

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Erdogan says Turkey’s ceasefire calls in Idlib yielded results


[9/17/2018 9:46:25 AM]

AMMONNEWS - President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s calls for a ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib region were bearing fruit after days of relative calm but more work needed to be done, Hurriyet newspaper reported on Monday. Erdogan was due to hold talks in Russia later on Monday with President Vladimir Putin, whose military support for the Syrian government has helped reverse years of rebel gains and who publicly rebuffed Turkey’s ceasefire call 10 days ago. “The situation in Idlib has been calm for three days. It looks like we obtained a result with the efforts which were made,” the newspaper quoted Erdogan as telling reporters on a flight back from Azerbaijan at the weekend. “But we are still not satisfied,” he said. Turkey, with 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has already borne the “political and human burden” of Syria’s seven-year-old conflict and any new refugee flow would head for Turkey, Erdogan said. Turkey, which supports rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been holding talks with his allies Russia and Iran over the fate of Idlib and surrounding districts, which Assad has vowed to recapture. Ankara has established a dozen military observation posts around Idlib, which it has reinforced with troops and equipment in recent weeks according to Turkish and Syrian rebel sources. “We are trying to protect the pure, clean, innocent people there with these observation posts,” Erdogan said. “But currently everybody can see the regime’s mercilessness and the terror which they are spreading there. There is a terror state.” The Idlib region is home to around 3 million people. Parts of it are held by Turkey-backed rebels but many of the towns are controlled by jihadist fighters such as Tahrir al-Sham, which includes insurgents from the former al Qaeda branch in Syria. Turkey has called for measures to target hardline militants in Idlib while protecting civilians and avoiding an indiscriminate assault, likely backed by Russian air power, which it says would cause a humanitarian catastrophe. “Let’s all take steps, measures together against the terror groups among the opposition in Idlib,” Erdogan said. “But let’s not create an excuse and take a step like bombing there.” *Reuters

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Polls open in Syrian regime-held areas for first local elections since 2011


[9/16/2018 5:38:28 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Voting began across government-controlled parts of Syria on Sunday for the war-ravaged country’s first local elections since 2011, state news agency SANA said. Polling booths opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and are expected to stay open for 12 hours. “Voting centers opened for citizens to cast their ballots to elect their representatives in the local administrative councils,” SANA reported. “More than 40,000 candidates are competing for 18,478 seats across all provinces,” it said. Syrian state television broadcast footage of voters around Damascus and in the coastal government bastions of Tartus and Latakia dropping their ballots into plastic boxes as election officials looked on. Syrian troops now control around two-thirds of the country after scoring a series of military victories in recent months, including around Damascus and in the country’s south. Voting was expected in some of the recaptured areas. The number of seats had slightly increased from the roughly 17,000 open in the last elections, as smaller villages had been promoted to fully fledged municipalities. The councils operate at the municipal level, and newly elected representatives are expected to have more responsibilities than their predecessors, especially those linked to reconstruction and urban development. Syria last held local elections in December 2011, just nine months into the conflict. It held parliamentary elections in 2016 and a presidential vote in 2014 that renewed President Bashar al-Assad’s rule for another seven years. *Agencies

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Pompeo: US studying sanction waivers against entities dealing with Iran


[9/15/2018 10:08:37 AM]

AMMONNEWS - The United States is still studying possible waivers of sanctions against countries or businesses that continue commerce with Iran after November 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday. At the same time he maintained the US administration's firm position toward Tehran, which Washington accuses of interference throughout the Middle East. To the dismay of other signatories, Trump in May announced his pullout from the hard-won 2015 international accord under which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear capacities in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions. Trump said the deal failed to block all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and reimposed sanctions. These included secondary penalties against businesses or foreign countries which continue commerce with Iran. Those firms must now choose between their investments in Iran and their access to the US market. Washington gave them some time to pull out, leaving the latest sanctions related to financial transactions and petroleum to take effect after November 4. "There are still a number of decisions pending before the November 4th deadline that we gotta make about waivers, potential waivers," Pompeo told a news conference. Washington wants all countries to halt oil imports from Iran before November 4 if they want to avoid US penalties. Certain waivers have not been excluded, however, notably for India which depends heavily on Iranian petroleum. Responding to a question, Pompeo said he did not know if sanctions would hit managers of Swift, the international financial messaging system, if they continue to deal with Iran. "Come November 4th, there will be a fundamentally different set of rules" regarding "anyone who deems it necessary to engage in economic activity with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a big important day," Pompeo said. He underlined that many countries had already begun to disengage themselves. The European Union, which continues to back the Iran nuclear accord, has tried unsuccessfully to obtain widespread waivers and many of its bigger companies have already pulled out of the country for fear of US penalties. Iran in late August opened a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice, demanding the suspension of the renewed US financial penalties which it says are devastating its economy. *AFP

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Putin says two Skripal poisoning suspects are ‘civilians’


[9/12/2018 4:46:29 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the two men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with military-grade nerve agent are not criminals and have been identified as civilians. Speaking at an economic forum with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and China’s Xi Jinping in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin urged the men to address the media and said there was “nothing criminal”. “We know who they are, we have found them,” Putin said. “They are civilians, of course,” he said, apparently responding to a claim by the British authorities that the two suspects are members of Russia’s military intelligence agency. Putin urged the two men to speak to journalists. “I hope they will turn up themselves and tell about themselves,” he said. “There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future.” British authorities have issued European arrest warrants for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two suspected members of Russian military intelligence, the GRU. They are accused of trying to kill former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the Novichok nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, in an attack London believes was sanctioned by the Kremlin. The British government has said Putin is ultimately responsible for the attack, a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied. *AFP

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In new letter, North Korea’s Kim asks for another meeting with Trump


[9/10/2018 3:14:44 PM]

AMMONNEWS - US President Donald Trump received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un about scheduling a second meeting between the two leaders, and the White House wants it to take place, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday. Sanders described the letter as “warm” and “positive.” She told reporters that a military parade in Pyongyang on Sunday was a sign of progress in talks on denuclearization because it did not feature any long-range nuclear missiles. *Reuters

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