Putin to talk with Saudi’s King Salman following Assad’s Russia meeting

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as seen in Damascus, Syria November 14, 2017. (Reuters)
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(Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)
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(Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2017
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Putin to talk with Saudi’s King Salman following Assad’s Russia meeting

DUBAI: Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a telephone conversation with the king of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to inform him about his meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Kremlin said.
“Today there will be Putin’s telephone conversation with the king of Saudi Arabia, and one can certainly expect that Putin will inform his Saudi counterpart about yesterday’s meeting,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
Putin had previously said he planned to talk to US counterpart Donald Trump on the telephone on Tuesday after the unannounced meeting with Assad in Sochi.
Putin said he intended to “hold consultations” with the leaders of other countries.
Assad visited Sochi in Russia on Monday to meet with Putin, the Kremlin announced on Tuesday.
Russian state TV said the two leaders held bilateral talks on Monday and then met with Russian military chiefs.
It was the second time Assad has traveled to Russia to meet with Putin in the course of the country’s six-year civil war.
The first was in October 2015, shortly after Russia launched its military campaign in Syria to shore up Assad’s forces. The Russian intervention has turned the war in favor of Assad.
According to the Kremlin, Assad said that Damascus is interested in promoting a political process after the government defeats “terrorists” in the country and added that he is interested in working with any party that seeks a political settlement. Assad also thanked Russia for its role in “saving our country.”
Meanwhile, Putin hailed Assad’s apparent readiness to cooperate with all parties seeking a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and added that he plans to speak to US President Donald Trump and regional leaders about the Syrian issue.
Putin also said that the visit by Assad came ahead of visits by the presidents of Turkey and Iran to Russia, planned for this week.
The meeting in Sochi comes a week before UN-sponsored peace talks are to resume in Geneva.
Assad’s office confirmed the visit on its Facebook page.

(With AFP and Reuters)


UN Palestinian agency says overcoming Trump funding cuts

Updated 15 min 59 sec ago
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UN Palestinian agency says overcoming Trump funding cuts

GENEVA: The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has nearly overcome a crippling funding crisis caused by President Donald Trump canceling the US aid contribution, agency chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl said Thursday.
The organization, known as UNRWA, had counted on a budget of $1.2 billion (1 billion euros) for 2018 but faced a gap of $446 million when the Trump administration announced it was cutting support.
UNRWA responded to its “unprecedented” financial pressures by seeking support across UN member-states and raised an additional $382 million, bringing the shortfall for the year down to just $64 million, Kraehenbuehl told reporters in Geneva.
He said he hoped the gap could still be trimmed further in the coming weeks.
“I’ll be very honest in saying, I don’t think many people believed that we would be able to overcome a $446 million shortfall at the beginning of the year,” said Kraehenbuehl, who took charge of UNRWA in 2014.
He credited the European Union and especially four Gulf countries with increasing support.
Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates upped their support to $50 million each to offset Trump’s cuts, the UNRWA chief said.
The agency’s 2019 budget has not been finalized, but Kraehenbuehl stressed it was important “to preserve those new levels of funding.”
The United Stated had previously been UNRWA’s largest contributor.
But the Trump administration as well as Israel say they oppose the way the organization operates and how it calculates the number of Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA was set up in 1950 to help Palestinian refugees who lost their homes because of the 1948 Middle East conflict. Its assistance includes schools, health care centers and food distribution.
More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
They and all their descendants are deemed by the UN agency to be refugees who fall under its remit.