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Regional geopolitics

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  • Russian diplomat fires back at Israel’s disapproval of Syrian ceasefire

    By News Desk

    The ceasefire agreement in southern Syria reached by Moscow and Washington will not be revoked because Israeli fears, a senior Russian parliamentarian wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.

    Israel categorically opposes the ceasefire agreement reached by the US and Russia as it will give an opportunity for Iran to expand its presence in the region, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said on Sunday citing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said later that the interests of Israel’s security were fully taken into account.

    According to Lavrov, Moscow and Washington carried out preparatory work on a ceasefire in southern Syria with all parties concerned, including Israel. “I can guarantee that the American side and we did the best we can to make sure that Israel’s security interests are fully taken into consideration,” Russia’s top diplomat stressed.

    “Israel’s motives are not concealed: it fears the strengthening of Iran’s position in the region, and also, it appears, limited possibilities for Tel Aviv itself to act against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]. However, nobody will be revoking such an important document that gives hopes for a breakthrough in the Syrian situation only because of Israel’s guesses about Iran’s hypothetical intentions,” the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee for international affairs Konstantin Kosachev posted on Facebook.

    “That is why, it would be more reasonable for Tel Aviv not to come down on the already reached agreement between Russia and the US, but instead find ways how to live with this and reap benefits from victory over Islamic State (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia) which are clear for all countries of the region,” Kosachev said.
    ALSO READ Turkey sends more artillery towards Syria - Pictures
    The legislator from the upper house of the Russian parliament stressed that Iran is a major participant in Middle East processes and has secured its role in the Syrian settlement with an active position both in the military and diplomatic formats.

    Kosachev also said he deemed it important for the US and Russia to carry out ‘in-depth negotiations’ with Israel on the issue.

    A ceasefire agreement for southern Syria was reached by Russian and US Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in Germany’s Hamburg on July 7.

    Earlier, Netanyahu said Israel would hail real cessation of hostilities in Syria.

    Israel categorically opposes the ceasefire agreement reached by the US and Russia as it will give an opportunity for Iran to expand its presence in the region


    • Afgan Mukhtarli: Did Georgia help abduct an Azeri journalist?

      • 18 July 2017
      • From the sectionEurope
      Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionThere is a furore over Georgia's alleged complicity with Azeri authorities in Mr Mukhtarli's detention
      The disappearance of an Azeri opposition journalist in the streets of the Georgian capital Tbilisi has caused an outcry in a country which prides itself on championing democracy. The BBC's Rayhan Demytrie reports from the South Caucasus.

      On 29 May, Afgan Mukhtarli went to meet a friend in a cafe in Tbilisi. He rang his wife Leyla Mustafayeva at about 19:00 to say that he was heading back home.

      But Mr Mukhtarli, an Azeri journalist who had been living in self-imposed exile in Georgia since 2015, never showed up.

      "I thought that the worst had happened, that he had been killed and dumped in the woods," says Leyla, speaking from the leafy garden of her small one-storey house in central Tbilisi.

      Afgan Mukhtarli was an outspoken critic of the Azeri government. Before fleeing the country, he had carried out a series of investigations exposing corruption in the defence ministry.

      "In 2014 the Azeri government intensified pressure on its critics. Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist Afgan used to work with, was arrested, then the government shut down Radio Liberty, and Afgan was questioned in relation to that case," Leyla explains.

      Georgia, which has a liberal visa policy, became a destination of choice for many Azeri political activists and journalists.

      At the time of his disappearance, Mr Mukhtarli had been investigating the business holdings of the family of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in Georgia, on behalf of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). Image captionAfgan's wife Leyla Mustafayeva holds his passport to show that her husband was not planning to travel anywhere
      The morning after his alleged abduction, Leyla received news that her husband had resurfaced in Azerbaijan and was in police custody there.

      "I was so happy... at least he was alive."

      Through his lawyer in the Azeri capital Baku, Mr Mukhtarli claimed that he was kidnapped by men in Georgian police uniforms, who beat him in the car, put a hood on his head, stuffed his pockets with money and handed him over to Azeri state security officers.

      Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili categorically denied the involvement of any Georgian state bodies. Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionBaku, 31 May: Mr Mukhtarli gestured defiantly to supporters outside the courtImage copyrightREUTERS Image captionMr Mukhtarli (second from left) is reported to be seriously ill now in custody in Baku
      In neighbouring Azerbaijan, border officials and the prosecutor general say Mr Mukhtarli was caught illegally crossing the Georgian-Azeri border while carrying large sums of undeclared money.

      He is now in three months of pre-trial detention in Baku, facing criminal charges.

      Georgian journalists' bag protest over reporter's arrest

      European rights watchdog faces inquiry

      Georgia country profile

      Azerbaijan country profile 'Democracies don't do that'

      In Georgia the news of the alleged abduction and claims that Georgian authorities had been complicit triggered a public outcry.

      "It is well documented that people can disappear in Russia and then reappear somewhere in Central Asia, but nobody expected such an incident in Georgia," says Giorgi Gogia, the South Caucasus country director for Human Rights Watch. Image copyrightRUSTAVI TV Image captionRustavi TV held a talk show where host Giorgi Gabunia wore a hood throughout
      "If you claim to be a democracy where human rights are respected you don't do that. There is due process, there should be an extradition request and courts should make the decision."

      Several protests were staged in Tbilisi, some demonstrators wearing bags over their heads in solidarity with Mr Mukhtarli.

      The gesture was repeated by popular TV show host Giorgi Gabunia - he wore a black sack over his head while conducting an interview with Deputy Interior Minister Shalva Khutsishvili. The minister left the interview in protest. Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionGeorgian protesters dispute the official version of events and demand justice
      In a written statement to the BBC, Mr Khutsishvili said the Georgian interior ministry was investigating how Mr Mukhtarli had reached the Georgian-Azeri border and whether he had acted voluntarily or under duress. Trade partners

      "I completely rule out any illegal connection of Georgian law enforcement agents with this story," the deputy minister said.

      Georgian investigators have asked the Azeri authorities for permission to speak to Mr Mukhtarli directly. Without such evidence, Mr Khutsishvili says, "it would be inappropriate" to make the findings of their investigations public.

      Azerbaijan is among Georgia's top trading partners and a key energy supplier. More than 90% of the natural gas used by Georgians comes from Azerbaijan, and it also exports petrol and diesel.

      Azerbaijan also depends on Georgia for its oil exports to Europe. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, one of the longest in the world, runs through Georgia and is one of Azerbaijan's main sources of revenue.

      Afgan Mukhtarli's pre-trial detention will expire on 29 August.

      His lawyer, Elchin Sadiqov, says that he is suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, and has lost 16kg (35lb) since his detention in late May.


      • BREAKING: Tiger Forces within 40 km of Deir Ezzor city

        By Andrew Illingworth

        BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:35 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) Tiger Forces are within 40 kilometers of the strategic city of Deir Ezzor according to a high-ranking commander within the elite formation.

        Over the last several days, the true nature of SAA advances on the ground in southern Raqqa Governorate has been shrouded in secrecy for a number of political and military reasons.

        Officially, SAA military sources have announced the capture of the town of al-Dakhelah (on the western bank of the Euphrates River) as well as the B’ir al-Sabkhawi oil well and the al-Sabkhawi gas field in Raqqa Governorate’s far southeastern countryside. This was reported about 10 hours ago.

        However, one particular Tiger Forces military source has said, despite the fact that this is officially denied, that today the Tiger Forces managed to achieve a mammoth 22 kilometer advance down the western bank of the Euphrates reaching the town of Shayma – located 40 kilometers north of Deir Ezzor city.

        The commander attributed today’s large advance to a general collapse of ISIS defenses in the area.

        The Tiger Forces commander added that the SAA will now face a harder time pushing towards Deir Ezzor and estimated that the SAA should reach the city by the start of September.

        In any case, the advance by the SAA’s Tiger Forces over the last week has come as a major surprise for observers of the Syrian war, with even the most optimistic pro-government commentators not expecting the city to within striking distance until the late autumn of 2017.


        • Longest propaganda video ever: ISIS reveals why it cannot defeat Syrian troops at Deir Ezzor

          By Chris Tomson
          DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:00 P.M.) – On Saturday (July 22nd), ISIS released a 50-minute propaganda video covering events in Deir Ezzor city where a garrison of Syrian troops have stood steadfast against a full-blown jihadist siege that began in 2014 when the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) supply line was definitely cutoff.

          In addition to battle footage from the eastern city, the ISIS narrator blamed rival opposition groups and their spies as the main reason why Islamic State militants have failed to crush government forces. Rebel factions controlled most of Deir Ezzor from 2011 to 2014 before ISIS expelled them after a few months of clashes at the time.

          During this jihadist infighting, both sides sustained thousands of casualties, thereby reducing the Islamic State’s fighting capabilities when the time came to defeat the SAA’s pocket.

          The video covers much of the 2014 fighting, but was first released now for reasons unbeknownst to Al-Masdar News. Some of the footage is graphic and thus, viewer discretion is advised.

          AMN condemns terrorism in any shape or form but contrary to the mainstream media insists on allowing its readership access to unfiltered information, regardless of the source.


          • Russian FM supports referendum on Kurdish independence: video

            By Leith Fadel

            BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:10 A.M.) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he supported a referendum on Kurdish independence during the interview to the Kurdish TV-channel Rudaw, in Moscow, Monday.

            “We start from the fact that the legitimate aspirations of the Kurds, like other peoples, need to be fulfilled within the framework of existing international legal norms,” stated Lavrov before adding,

            “This also applies to the decision to hold a referendum, which was finally taken in Erbil.”

            In regards to Syria, the diplomat said that Russia believes the best solution to the political crisis lies with the Syrian people themselves.

            “There are criteria that cannot be avoided and circumvented in these negotiations, and this is enshrined in the same resolutions of the Security Council – this country should be democratic and secular,” stated Lavrov, before going on to say,

            “This is very important, because a number of oppositionists, who make democrats out of themselves, flatly refuse to recognise the need to ensure the secular nature of the future state.”

            In March, Lavrov stated that Russia would continue dialogue with Turkey to find ways to involve the Kurds in talks over a Syrian peace settlement.

            However, he admitted that he foresaw difficulties in this, knowing Ankara’s position on the matter.


            • Ռուսաստանը և Թուրքիան ստորագրել են C-400 համալիրների մատակարարման փաստաթղթերը. Էրդողան

              • Քաղաքականություն - 25 Հուլիսի 2017,

              Ռուսաստանը և Թուրքիան ստորագրել են հակաօդային պաշտպանության C-400 համալիրների մատակարարման փաստաթղթերը: Ինչպես հաղորդում է «Արմենպրես»-ը՝ վկայակոչելով թուրքական «Անադոլու» գործակալությունը, այս մասին հայտարարել է Թուրքիայի նախագահ Ռեջեփ Թայիփ Էրդողանը:

              «Մենք և Ռուսաստանի Դաշնությունն այս հարցում անհրաժեշտ բոլոր քայլերն արդեն ձեռնարկել ենք, ստորագրությունները դրված են, փառք Աստծո, C-400 համալիրները կտեսնենք մեր երկրում»,- ասել է Էրդողանը:

              «Ալմազ-Անթեյ կոնցեռն» բաժնետիրական ընկերության մշակման և արտադրության հեռահար գործողության C-400 «Տրիումֆ» զենիթահրթիռային համակարգը նախատեսված է ռազմավարական և մարտավարական ինքնաթիռների, բալիստիկ հրթիռների, գերձայնային թիրախների և օդային հարձակման այլ միջոցների բարձրարդյունավետ խոցման համար ռադիոԷլեկտրոնային և հակազդման այլ տեսակների պայմաններում:

              Համակարգը կարող է աերոդինամիկական թիրախներ խոցել մինչև 400 կիլոմետր հեռավորության վրա, ինչպես նաև մինչև 60 կիլոմետր հեռավորությամբ՝ բալիստիկ թիրախներ, որոնք վայրկյանում մինչև 4,8 կիլոմետր արագությամբ թռչում են մի քանի մետրից մինչև մի քանի տասնյակ կիլոմետր բարձրության վրա:


              • Russia vies with Israel over aid for Quneitra
                Debka, 19/07/2017

                As Russian troops began moving into the Quneitra ceasefire sector opposite Israel’s Golan border on Wednesday, July 19, they found they were in hot competition with Israel over … humanitarian aid for the sector’s rebel-held villages.
                Since Israel is adamantly opposed to the Russian presence in the Quneitra demilitarized zone - although it was endorsed by the Trump administration, as DEBKAfile reported exclusively on Tuesday, July 18 - Moscow decided to take it slowly and meanwhile try and win over the Syrian rebel groups whom Israel has succored for years. The Kremlin figured that if these anti-Assad groups could be weaned away from Israel, they might be persuaded to cooperate with the Russian troops in setting up the Quneitra ceasefire zone, and the Russians would not need Israel’s compliance.
                On Tuesday, therefore, a Russian military convoy drove into Jabah, a village northeast of Qunetra town and 4km from Israel’s Golan border. Officers described as belonging to the “Russian Defense Ministry’s reconciliation center” alit from the trucks and began handing out food packages to the villagers.
                The civilians received necessities and were treated by Russian doctors, a Syrian officer announced. Russian and Syrian officers promised that more humanitarian aid would be delivered to “settlements across the Quneitra province” and Russian doctors would visit all the villages in the ceasefire zone.
                Israel, who has been sending aid across these Syrian villages which were cut off by the civil war from basic necessities, has mostly kept its humanitarian program under wraps, except when witnesses reported what they saw to the media. On Wednesday, the IDF officers running the program asked sardonically: “Where were the Russians all these years when Israel alone helped the beleaguered villages across its border?”
                After watching the Russian troops hand out packages to the people of Quneitra, the Israeli government and military chiefs decided to challenge the Russian belated propaganda move.
                Up until now, Israel has supplied regular humanitarian aid to some 200,000 Syrian villagers living in 80 non-ISIS rebel-controlled villages 15km deep inside the Syrian Golan. Last year alone, Israel sent over half a million liters of heavy fuel, 360 tonnes of foodstuffs, 77 tonnes of clothing and shoes, tens of generators and water system, as well as providing them with medical treatment, including hospital care for sick and injured Syrians and a field hospital on the border.
                Wednesday, Israel formalized its assistance program under the title “The Good Neighbor” and disclosed it had been administered since 2016 by a special unit of the Bashan Division which is in charge of the Golan sector.
                The IDF released footage of trucks ferrying across the border supplies of medical equipment, medicines, foodstuffs and fuel, as well as pictures documenting IDF medics lifting Injured Syrians off the battlefield for treatment in Israeli hospitals.
                According to IDF statistics, at least 3,000 Syrians crossed the border in the past four years for medical treatment. And Israel sent over as needed incubators, respirators and ambulances. In the same period, the IDF conducted 150 assistance operations on Syrian soil.
                On their arrival in Quneitra, the Russians found a population that was better fed and cared for than Syrian civilians on any other of the country’s warfronts. They are nonetheless challenging Israel for the locals' hearts and minds.


                • Public Radio of Armenia
                  July 26 2017

                  Israel wants to develop friendly relations with Armenia

                  15:46, 26 Jul 2017

                  Israel wants to develop friendly relations with Armenia, Tsakhi Hanegbi, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister, who arrived in Armenia for an official visit, told Edward Nalbandyan, Armenian Foreign minister during their meeting that took place yesterday. According to Hanegbi, this is the key aim of his visit.
                  Greeting the guest, Nalbandyan stressed the importance of the Israeli minister’s visit to Armenia, as the relations between the two nations have deep historical roots and this lays ground for international cooperation development.

                  The two countries’ ministers discussed regional and international problems as well as ways for improving trade and economic relations and increase tourist flows between Armenia and Israel.

                  Prospects for expanding mutually advantageous relations in culture, science and education areas were discussed as well.
                  After the meeting, Armenian and Israeli ministers signed the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the Cabinet of the State of Israel on the Abolition of Visas for Holders of Diplomatic Passports as well as the Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income and property.

                  The Cooperation plan in the areas of science, culture and education for 2017-2020 was signed between Minister Tsakhi Hanegbi and the Minister of Culture of Armenia Armen Amiryan.

                  Hayastan or Bust.


                  • Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2017 12:36:00 -0400

          , Armenia July 25 2017

                    Turkey president slams Germany, US and Netherlands
                    17:19, 25.07.2017

                    President of Turkey Recep Tayiip Eerdogan slammed Germany’s threats to impose economic sanctions on his country.
                    He said the approach of U.S., Germany and Netherlands have unclear attitude towards Turkey because they want to push their interests forgetting about Turkey's interests, Hurriyet reported.
                    “Sorry, but there is no Turkey which they want to see any more. They ban the speeches of Turkish president and ministers but allowed terrorists enter their countries. Either they treat us as an equal ally, or they will face response to their disrespect towards Turkey,” he added.

                    Hayastan or Bust.


                    • Originally posted by Haykakan View Post
                      Israel wants to develop friendly relations with Armenia
                      Riiiggghttt! There are 197 countries in the world yet their bouncing obsession between the turks on both sides of Armenia has been beyond annoying. Now that the azeris gave them the cold shoulders since last March they are sheepishly grinning to Armenia.