Bolton to discuss Iran, Syria in talks with Russian counterpart

Russian support has strengthened the Syrian regime’s fight against Daesh. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Bolton to discuss Iran, Syria in talks with Russian counterpart

  • Bolton is a critic of the New START treaty, agreed during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration
  • Syria peace talks should broadly be led by the UN and other established groupings

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton will discuss arms control treaties and Iran’s role in Syria in talks with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week, an administration official said.
The meeting is a follow-up to Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.
Trump held a one-on-one meeting with Putin during that summit and drew criticism for siding with Moscow over US intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. He later corrected his assessment about Russia’s role.
The White House has not released many details about Trump’s meeting with Putin. But the official offered a list of items he said the two men discussed.
The leading topic of their conversation was the war in Syria, he said, including Iran’s role there and the humanitarian situation in the country.
The two agreed in principle that the Iranians should exit Syria but Russia saw that as a tough task, the official said.
Trump and Putin discussed arms control, including the New START treaty and the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.
The official said the leaders did not agree on a way forward on arms control, however.
Bolton is a critic of the New START treaty, agreed during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration.
Trump also raised the issue of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany, which he has criticized sharply, with Putin, the official said.
Directly after his meeting with Putin, which lasted more than two hours, Trump briefed Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, about their meeting for about 15 minutes, the official said.
Many topics they discussed were raised again in the larger group meeting that followed, the official said.
Syria is expected to be on the agenda when German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany on Saturday.
Merkel on Friday confirmed an announcement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of plans for a summit with the leaders of Russia and France, but she said no date had been set yet.
Although Syria peace talks should broadly be led by the UN and other established groupings, Merkel said such a four-way summit “could make sense.”
“It must be well prepared, that’s why no date has been set yet,” she told a Berlin joint press conference with Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic.
“But we will arrange for advisers to hold a preparatory meeting and then decide whether it makes sense to hold such a meeting together.”
She said she had also discussed this by telephone with Erdogan, pointing to the “very, very tense situation” in Syria’s opposition-held northwestern province of Idlib, now the focus of Assad’s troops after sweeping military gains — helped by direct Russian support — across Syria.


Turkey says it will not let the US hold it back in Syria

Updated 17 December 2018
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Turkey says it will not let the US hold it back in Syria

  • Turkey said it would launch a new operation within days against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia
  • Relations between the two NATO allies have long been strained by Syria policy

ISTANBUL: Turkey pledged on Monday to press ahead with plans to target a Kurdish militia in northern Syria, brushing off what it said were American efforts to stymie Turkish military operations east of the Euphrates.
President Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey would launch a new operation within days against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The Pentagon expressed grave concern and said unilateral military action there by any party would be “unacceptable.”
Relations between the two NATO allies have long been strained by Syria policy. The United States has backed the YPG against Daesh fighters. Ankara, however, sees the YPG as terrorists tied to PKK militants who have fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey for 34 years.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Washington had tried to hold Turkey back during two operations in Syria in the last two years against Daesh and the YPG, which controls swathes of Syria’s northern border region.
“The United States thought it could deter us with the men it has nurtured,” he said during a visit to Pakistan, state-owned news agency Anadolu reported. “Now, they will try to hold us back east of the Euphrates. Turkey did not, and will not, allow that.”
Turkey has not yet launched an operation east of the Euphrates but has kept up regular air strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants based in Iraq’s mountains.
Baghdad summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq on Friday after Ankara said it killed eight PKK fighters. But Turkish warplanes have since carried out further strikes.
On Monday, Turkey’s defense ministry said air strikes on Sunday targeted northern Iraq’s Gara and Hakurk areas and “neutralized” seven militants preparing to attack Turkish bases.
Erdogan has said Turkish forces will enter the Syrian town of Manbij, west of the Euphrates, if the United States does not remove YPG fighters there and will also target the eastern side, where the YPG controls an area stretching more than 400 km (250 miles) along the border toward Iraq.
On Sunday he vowed again to maintain attacks on militants.
“We are always in the heads of the terrorists. We are burying them in the ditches they dig. We will continue to bury them,” he said in a rally in Istanbul.
“Terrorists will cease to be an affliction for my nation,” he said. “Together with God’s permission we are making those who attack our homeland and borders pay the price.”
The United States has set up observation posts on the Syrian border, saying they will deter security threats against Turkey coming from Syria. It has warned Turkey against a new incursion.