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August 28, 2016 / 24 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Moscow’

Moscow Calming Israeli, American Fears of Russia-Turkey-Iran Coalition

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg between the two former feuding foes Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan “drew considerable attention,” government-run news agency TASS reported, noting that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement is coming while Russia has been expanding its relations with Iran and Ankara and Tehran have also been bridging the gaps between them, born by almost four decades of a volatile Islamic Republic on Turkey’s border. In fact, right after the failed coup last month, Erdogan announced, “We are determined to cooperate with Iran and Russia to address regional problems side by side and to step up our efforts considerably to restore peace and stability to the region.”

Should Israel be concerned? Apparently, the Russian news organ is eager to spread a message of calm regarding the new developments in the northern part of the region. And so an unsigned article this week polled experts who were skeptical regarding a developing strategic triangle of those three powers. According to the TASS experts, the most that will come out of the current statements are tactical political interaction and an upturn in economic cooperation. But even if it were true, and Russia, Turkey and Iran were to forge a strategic alliance, TASS continues its calming message, it would be for the best, because “these three countries can play a positive role, for instance, in overcoming the Syrian crisis.”

It isn’t clear who is panicking more at the moment—Jerusalem or Washington—over the possibility that Turkey, a NATO member, would switch sides and coalesce with Russia and Iran. Clearly, the US has a whole lot more to lose from such an emerging outcome. US Middle East policy traditionally relied on the “three-legged stool” comprised of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. As long as those three major local powers were in the Western camp, Soviet manipulations elsewhere could be mitigated. When Iran was lost under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the US attempted for the longest time to substitute Iraq for the missing stool leg, but the Iraqi regime never provided the stability the US enjoyed with the Shah. This is why the US is so determined to keep Turkey in the Western camp, because without a Western-allied Turkey, the US presence in the region would be severely downgraded.

Hence the need for the TASS calming story. It interviewed senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, who reassured the Western readers “there will be no trilateral union, of course. It should be ruled out for many reasons. At best one can expect some tactical alliance. This is so because Iran, Turkey and Russia have certain problems in their relations with the West and with the United States.” That’s code for Turkey would be punished severely, economically and otherwise, if it ever jumped ship.

Sazhin continued, “If one takes a look at the economic interests they share, it should be remembered that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan … are countries that produce and export hydrocarbons. They have a great deal to discuss in view of the current strained situation on the world market. As for Turkey, its role in delivering hydrocarbons to the West may be significant. But I don’t think that this triangle will be of strategic importance.”

Sazhin sees no fundamentally new geopolitical aspects in sight. “It’s about getting back to where we had been all the time. Arabs constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East. Non-Arab countries are few – Israel, Turkey and Iran. They had very close relations up to [the emergence of] the Islamic revolution in Iran.”

“In Iran, with its 80-million population, Turks and Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically very close to Turkey, constitute an estimated 18 to 25 million,” Sazhin said. “Bilateral relations existed not only at the Tehran-Ankara level. There were very strong people-to-people bonds. Plus the long-standing economic ties. But in politics post-revolution Iran and NATO member Turkey have drifted apart, of course.”

Research fellow Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Arab and Islamic Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute told TASS, “I don’t believe in the emergence of new political triangles. I don’t think some strategic changes will follow overnight to bring about changes to the configuration of alliances. A number of steps we’ve seen our friends and partners and those we are not on very friendly terms with us take are tactical. They stem from the current situation.”

Zvyagelskaya believes that to a large extent this is true of Turkey. “It is to be remembered that Erdogan’s wish to have closer relations is a result of certain internal political events, on the one hand, and soaring tensions in his country’s relations with the United States and the European Union, on the other. These steps by Erdogan are purely pragmatic and we should treat them accordingly. As far as I understand, nobody has any illusions on that score.”

JNi.Media

Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate Revealed in Diary of Former KGB Chief

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

For the first time ever, historians finally know, without doubt, what happened to the Swedish diplomat who saved so many thousands of Jewish lives from the Nazi hordes in Hungary during World War II.

In the 632-page tome, “Notes From a Suitcase: Secret Diaries of the First K.G.B. Chairman, Found Over 25 Years After His Death,” one finds the memoirs of one of the most important men in Soviet history, and the answer to one of the most painful questions of the last century.

“I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” wrote state security chief Ivan A. Serov, head of the KGB from 1954 to 1958, in a memoir not only rare but in fact probably entirely forbidden to write.

Wallenberg disappeared in Budapest in 1945, and although there have been countless searches for clues to his fate, none have turned up the slightest breath of evidence as to what happened to him.

But his fate is found in this text, because the grandaughter of Ivan A. Serov, 57-year-old retired ballerina Vera Serova was wise enough, and kind enough, not to throw away the papers discovered by workers in suitcases as they renovated a garage four years ago at a “dacha” left to her in northwestern Moscow by her VIP grandfather.

The soldiers of the Soviet Union were occupying Budapest at the time of Wallenberg’s disappearance, and it was known that as a Swedish diplomat, he had strong ties with the Americans and the highest echelons of the Third Reich. That made him suspect to the Russians.

Neither ever gave up a clue, however, until this summer when the diaries of the original head of the clandestine KGB, found tucked into the wall of a little vacation cottage in Russia, were published.

Although few indeed are memoirs written by Kremlin officials – for obvious reasons – this one, penned by Serov, contained a treasure.

The multiple references to previously unknown documents on Wallenberg definitively put to rest the endless questions about the fate of the heroic diplomat. The most important of all is the fact that Wallenberg, though dead at the time of the posthumous investigation, was ultimately found by the USSR not to have been a “spy” after all.

It was Serov who carried out that probe at the behest of Nikita S. Khrushchev, who requested the inquiry after Stalin, telling Serov to respond to Sweden and help in the purge of Molotov. Although he failed to uncover the full circumstances of Wallenberg’s death, he said, he found no evidence of espionage.

There is a mention of the cremation of Wallenberg’s remains. And there is a reference to something said by Serov’s predecessor, Viktor Abakunov, who was tried and executed in 1954, in the final Stalin purge. During the interrogation of the former head of state security, his torturers learned that it was Stalin and then-foreign minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov who had issued the order to “liquidate” Wallenberg.

Serov also said he had read a Wallenberg file — despite the fact the Soviet Security Service had for years denied that any such files existed. Hans Magnusson, a retired senior diplomat interviewed by the New York Times, directed the Swedish side of the Swedish-Russian Working Group and said there should have been a file created for every prisoner. But, he said, “The Russians said they did not find one.”

Vera Serova has one, however, in her grandfather’s memoirs. She has published them now to restore his reputation, she said.

Serov did many evil things in his life: he established the secret police that were used to terrorize the population in Poland and East Germany; he helped deport thousands of minorities considered a threat to Soviet rule in Russia; he wielded enormous power as head of state security.

Hana Levi Julian

Putin to Arab League Summit: ‘Status Quo on Palestine Unacceptable’

Monday, July 25th, 2016

In a message of greeting to the heads of state of the Arab League assembling in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow considers the existing status quo on Palestine unacceptable and called for re-launching the negotiation process, TASS reported.

“We also intend to continue to provide all possible assistance in resolving the Palestinian problem acting through both the bilateral channels and within various multilateral formats,” Putin said, adding, “We believe the existing status quo is unacceptable and favor creating the conditions for the speedy re-launching of the negotiation process that will be aimed at creating an independent, viable and integral Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem peacefully coexisting with its neighbors.”

The annual Arab League summit’s agenda includes combating terrorism and the ongoing civil wars in Libya and Syria. Political analyst Youssef Cherif told Daily News Egypt that the Arab League is having one of its weakest meetings ever, since so many of its member nations are facing internal turmoil. The Moroccan delegation is boycotting the summit, saying the reason for its withdrawal is that “in an absence of decisions and concrete initiatives, this summit will be a mere gathering for speeches that imply fake unity among Arab countries.”

Only nine Arab heads of state are attending the summit—13 heads of states said they will not be able to come. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will not be at the summit and Egypt will be represented by Prime Minister Sherif Ismai.

Nevertheless, President Putin urged the Arab League states to fight against terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other tense areas. “Russia is ready to strengthen in every possible way its interaction with the Arab League in ensuring regional security, first and foremost, in the struggle against the threat of international terrorism,” Putin said in his address to the summit.

JNi.Media

Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets in Moscow With President Putin

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Moscow Monday night for an official visit Tuesday (June 7) to mark 25 years of restored diplomatic ties between Israel and Russia. Netanyahu, who has met with President Vladimir Putin twice in the past several months, sat down in the Kremlin to discuss a laundry list of issues with the Russian leader late Tuesday afternoon.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a briefing with media on Tuesday that intensive contacts between Russia and Israel have been the basis for building up the bilateral cooperation. The comment came in response to a question about the frequency of the meetings between Putin and Netanyahu.

“This creates a very positive basis for new ideas regarding the bilateral cooperation,” the Kremlin spokesman said. “This includes agriculture, high-tech solutions and many other areas,” Peskov said, according to the Tass news agency.

The spokesman said an “atmosphere of confidence” reigns in the bilateral relations between the two countries. “This is a very constructive and trusting manner of communication between the president and the prime minister,” Peskov said. He added that Russian and Israel take into account each other’s concerns and express their positions “quite constructively.

Peskov noted that the exchange of information and communication flowed particularly smoothly between the military officials and staffs of the two countries.

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said he was “moved,” hearing the Russian Honor Guard play “Hatikva” during the visit to the Kremlin.

One of Netanyahu’s official duties while in the Russia capital was to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – a ceremony carried out in Washington D.C. as well — which he did earlier in the day as well.

Netanyahu gravely laid a wreath at the soldier’s tomb, and stood at attention as soldiers snapped to salute to honor their fallen comrade, unidentified to this day.

The staff of the Prime Minister’s office was kind enough to tweet their experience of the event, along with a photo for followers, making it clear in the content of the photo caption, that more than a few staff members were immigrants or children of immigrants who hailed from Mother Russia in the office.

Hana Levi Julian

In Netanyahu Meeting with Putin Tuesday Syria on the Table, But Not Iran

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to hold talks on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a state visit to Moscow marking the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This is the second meeting between the two leaders in Moscow in the past month and a half, and the fourth over the past year. Netanyahu only met once with President Obama over the same period of time.

Speaking on Monday at a ceremony commemorating the Six-Day War, Netanyahu noted that the hostile Arab armies that circled Israel back in 1967 were “armed, trained, supplied and supported by the Soviet Union.” He added quickly: “Look what a tremendous difference there is nowadays. Russia is a world superpower and the relations between us are getting ever tighter. I’m laboring over tightening this connection and it serves our national security these days, and it has prevented needless, dangerous confrontations on our northern border.”

It could be said that Israel is experiencing its best relationship with Russia on record, with the volume of trade, tourism, security and political coordination at a peak—much of it credited to Avigdor Liberman’s stint as foreign minister. But there are obvious areas where Russia is not coming across as a friend of the Jewish State, if anything, it appears to be leading and supporting Israel’s most vehement enemies — Iran with its proxies, and the Palestinians.

The Russians are supplying Iran with advanced S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems, and are in the process of selling the Iranians many more weapons, because the Iranians can now afford it, their multi-billion dollar accounts having been restored by the Obama-Kerry team.

The Russians are fighting in Syria alongside Hezbollah, and are facilitating—actively or tacitly—the leakage of weapons, advanced and otherwise, from Syria into south Lebanon, where they will some day be used against Israel.

In 2015-16 the Russians have spearheaded several critical anti-Israel UN votes: they supported the Egyptian proposal to impose UN supervision on Israel’s nuclear facilities; they’ve been voting regularly with the anti-Israel majority at the UN Human Rights Council; they supported the Palestinian proposal to create a blacklist of companies that trade with the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria; and they’ve supported the shameful UNESCO resolution that removed all trace of recognizing a Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

So perhaps the friendship between the two countries could get a little friendlier.

According to the Kremlin press service, Putin and Netanyahu are going to have a detailed exchange of opinion on the Middle East regional issues, with special emphasis on the struggle with international terrorism. The agenda will be expansive, says the Kremlin, “since relations between Russia and Israel are at an advanced stage and have the character of partnership.”

Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein told TASS that the two sides plan to sign an agreement on pensions to Russian-born Israelis who did not keep their Russian citizenship after emigrating from the former USSR. A Russian good will gesture in this case would go a long way to boost Netanyahu’s promise to his new coalition partner Liberman, who conditioned the move into government on an increase in those pensions.

There is certainly a renaissance in Russian-Israeli ties: since the year 2000 Israeli Prime Ministers have made thirteen visits to Russia, Netanyahu accounting for seven of those visits. Putin visited Israel once during the same period.

JNi.Media

Netanyahu Heads for Official Visit to Moscow

Monday, June 6th, 2016

For the fourth time in less than year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading to the Kremlin on Wednesday for an official visit to Moscow.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Israel’s diplomatic ties with Russia.

The invitation for the visit was announced by a spokesperson for the Russian government on May 13. Netanyahu had traveled to Moscow in April for a short briefing with Russian leaders the day before the start of Passover.

During that visit, the two men discussed Russia’s advanced weapons sales to Iran, the situation in Syria, continued coordination between the military forces of the two nations in Syria, a discussion about the peace efforts in the country, and prevention of advanced weapons access for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.

Israel’s top military advisers accompanied Netanyahu that day, as did then-Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who was born in Ukraine.

Hana Levi Julian

Russians Support Keeping Some Settlements Intact in Peace Negotiations

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

A Russian state news agency TASS story in the wake of the Friday Paris Conference for peace, quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov who advocated concrete territorial exchanges between Israel and the Arabs in Judea and Samaria, in order to preserve Israeli settlements. “The border should be established between Israelis and Palestinians,” Bogdanov said, adding, “This border may envisage territorial exchanges, appropriate and adequate, taking into account that such an approach allows to resolve the problem of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister stressed that Israeli settlements “may remain in some regions with the understanding that in exchange for territories with Israeli settlements, Palestinians will get an appropriate compensation in the form of parts of the territory. This is a so-called territorial exchange.”

It should be noted in this context that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the past advocated handing over to the Palestinian State the Israeli cities of the Arab Triangle, such as Um El Fahm and Tira — a suggestion that caused an uproar and accusations of racism.

Following the Paris international conference on a peace deal between Israel and the Arabs, in which 29 nations as well as the UN and EU participated, but Israel did not, Bogdanov, the Russian president’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, told TASS that the conference had been “useful. We still need to analyze the content of the Paris discussion; study the final document and then see what can be done, by using common approaches, to promote a sustainable negotiating process between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Bogdanov said. He recommended that both sides assess the conference’s results, and promised that “We are going to have contacts at a very high level with both sides.”

Signaling the Russians’ intense interest in remaining involved in the process, TASS on Friday ran five different stories involving Mikhail Bogdanov and the peace agreement. According to the diplomat, Moscow is prepared to host negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli representatives. “Of course, we will be prepared to do this, if there is the wish and readiness of the two parties — Israelis and Palestinians — to have a meeting… if they wish to meet in Moscow, we are prepared to host them.”

In another story, Bogdanov lamented the fact that the split among the Palestinians hampers progress in the Middle Eastern settlement. “This problem should be resolved as a priority task so that Palestinians present a single and united delegation at the talks on the final status,” Bogdanov advised.

He also promised that “Russia fully supports efforts to restore inter-Palestinian unity on the basis of the PLO and Arab Peace Initiative.” He suggested a “dialogue with representatives of the whole range of Palestinian forces, first of all Fatah and Hamas, in the interest of achieving appropriate agreements.”

It was not easy to asses whether the high-ranking diplomat was being naïve or cynical, but it appears that he is promoting peace between Hamas and the Jews it has sworn to annihilate. In fact, Bogdanov is serious about preventing the next clash between Israel and Hamas:

“The exchange of strikes between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza in early May of this year that became the biggest since the ceasefire agreement was reached in August 2014 is another confirmation of a well-known point, which is that the recurrence of confrontation is not ruled out without solving the enclave’s problems, lifting the blockade imposed on it and restoring its infrastructure destroyed by Israel, including in the summer of the year before last,” Bogdanov said.

He did not mention that those clashes in May erupted when IDF bulldozers were crossing a few yards into Gazan territory to demolish Hamas terror tunnels that lead into Israel. Hamas was unhappy to see its work being destroyed, and so their snipers shot at IDF soldiers to shoo them away.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/russians-support-keeping-some-settlements-intact-in-peace-negotiations/2016/06/04/

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