Syrian Kurds say Russia has promised they can attend Sochi talks

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (L) speaks with Russia's chief negotiator for Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev (R), during the session of Syria peace talks in Astana on Dec. 22, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2017
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Syrian Kurds say Russia has promised they can attend Sochi talks

BEIRUT: Russia has promised that the autonomous region controlled by Kurds in northern Syria will be represented at peace talks it is hosting next month, the commander of the main Syrian Kurdish militia was cited as saying on Wednesday.
Moscow has said 155 representatives of the autonomous region will participate, Sipan Hemo, the commander of the YPG, was quoted as saying by official Syrian Kurdish social media channels on Wednesday.
Kurdish groups have not taken part in any round of Syrian peace talks so far despite their control of more than a quarter of Syria. Turkey opposes their involvement in talks.
Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria’s six-year-old civil war while Turkey opposes him.
But Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist group affiliated to the Kurdish PKK, which has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades.
Russia, Iran and Turkey announced the Jan. 29-30 dates for the talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi date after a round of peace talks in Kazakhstan last week, but did not say who would participate.
About 40 Syrian rebel groups, including factions that have taken part in other rounds of peace talks, said on Monday they would refuse to attend the Sochi Congress.
Russia is the most powerful supporter of Assad. Its jets have helped him bring the rebellion against his rule near to an end.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has said that the success of the congress should be assessed by its ability to contribute to and support the UN-led Geneva talks on ending the war.


Pompeo says ‘quite possible’ Iran behind Gulf incidents

Updated 13 min 9 sec ago
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Pompeo says ‘quite possible’ Iran behind Gulf incidents

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday it was “quite possible” Iran was responsible for sabotage of Gulf oil interests, although he stopped short of making a definitive conclusion.
“Given all the regional conflicts that we have seen over the past decade and the shape of these attacks, it seems like it’s quite possible that Iran was behind these,” Pompeo, who later Tuesday will brief US lawmakers on rising tensions with Tehran, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that while the threat from Iran in the region remains high, the potential for attacks on Americans had been "put on hold."

"I think our steps were very prudent and we've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans and that is what is extremely important," Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon. He did not provide further details.
"I'd say we're in a period where the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians," Shanahan added.