Meeting to go ahead ‘despite Turkey’s concerns: Kremlin

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017

Meeting to go ahead ‘despite Turkey’s concerns: Kremlin

SOCHI/BEIRUT: The Kremlin said Thursday Turkey’s opposition to the participation of Kurdish militias in Syria’s political process would not stand in the way of a peace “congress” Moscow is seeking to organize in the near future.
“We know that there are certain reservations on the part of our Turkish partners with regard to the forces they believe pose a threat to their national security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
“But this does not mean that work will not be conducted. Intense expert work to agree and check the lists (of congress participants) lies ahead.”
He said the congress would be convened “in the near future” but did not provide more details.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Iran and Turkey for a key trilateral summit aimed at finding a political settlement of Syria’s six-year civil war.
The trio sought to show a united front, saying they hoped a Moscow-championed “congress” would bring together Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s forces and various opposition groups and reinvigorate a hobbled peace process.
Meanwhile, a senior adviser to Assad said that Russia’s planned peace talks among Syrian groups will only succeed if the opposition ends its fight against the government.
“The success of the congress depends on the various opposition groups realizing that the time has come to stop the violence, lay down their weapons and engage in a national dialogue,” said Bouthaina Shaaban in comments to a Russian news agency carried by Syrian state media.
Shaaban said the government is ready for dialogue with those who believe in a political solution, adding that the opposition’s desire — or even ability — to engage in a real political operation has not yet been made clear.
Syria’s six-year-old civil war has killed hundreds of thousands, pushed millions to flee in the worst refugee crisis since World War Two and embroiled regional and world powers.
In a separate development, Russia’s UN ambassador says the expert body that has determined responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria “is dead” but Moscow is ready to discuss “a new mechanism.”
Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after a closed Security Council discussion that the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM, “has discredited itself completely.”
Russia vetoed two council resolutions last week to keep the JIM in operation, and this week it rejected a third Swedish-Uruguayan draft resolution to revive the joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigative body before it was put to a vote.
At the heart of the dispute is Russia’s demand for major changes in the way the JIM operates, and the insistence of the US and 10 other council members that its independence and operation remain unchanged.

Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

Updated 24 May 2018

Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister said on Thursday he plans to seek approval next week for the construction of some 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman, writing on Twitter, said a regional planning board would be asked to designate 1,400 of the housing units for immediate construction.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to south, in small communities and in large ones,” Lieberman wrote, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials, who have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.