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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Moscow’

Palestinian Authority (Again) Rejects New Attempt at Final Status Talks

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Palestinian Authority leaders have rejected another attempt by world leaders to arrange final status talks with Israel, this time brokered by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently expressed willingness to host Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders for direct talks, an idea first raised last week by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

But as has happened with prior such efforts, including an attempt in July by Cairo, and similar efforts by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the bid was rejected.

The Arabic-language Jordanian al-Ghad daily newspaper quoted senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Wasel Abu Yousef on Sunday as saying the United States was notified of the entity’s “firm stance” on pre-conditions for such talks: 1. total freeze on Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and anywhere in Jerusalem restored to the capital from 1967 onward; 2. release of the fourth contingent of prisoners listed for freedom during the failed 2014 “peace talks” in spring 2014.

Abu Yousef said “any meeting requires the conditions to be implemented in order to ensure the talks are not just for public relations,” journalist Nadia Sa’ad Eddin reported. “The Occupation Authorities persist in their refusal to meet their obligations while pressing ahead with escalating their aggression against the Palestinian people,” he added.

In any case, he said, the Palestinian Authority is “busy nowadays with the arrangements for local elections, scheduled for October 8…. with a national consensus on the need to make it a success…. and achieve national unity.”

Israel has consistently insisted on “direct bilateral negotiations with no preconditions,” pointing out the obvious fact that agreement to any preconditions would preclude the need for negotiations since acquiescence would have already determined the conclusion.

Israel has rejected the so-called “French initiative” which champions the Palestinian Authority cause and which pressures Israel to accept regionally-determined conditions regardless of the effect on her citizens within a limited timetable.

Hana Levi Julian

Turkish PM Denies Russia Demanding to Use NATO Nuke Base

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Russia is not demanding to land its planes in the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey, as several Russian news services have claimed. “Russia had no demands to use İncirlik air base, those reports are not true,” Yildirim told foreign correspondents in Istanbul on Saturday, according to Hurriyet Daily News. However, the prime minister did agree that should Russia wish to use the base for its operations against ISIS, it would be welcome to do so. Still, Yildirim added, “Russia doesn’t need to use the base. They have bases in Syria.”

Yildirim’s statement concluded an anxiety-filled few days in which Russian news sources were announcing that Russia has been demanding that Turkey give its air force access to the NATO air base in İncirlik, which is where US and coalition air forces take off on their strikes in Syria. Located some 65 miles from the Syrian border, Incirlik is also where an estimated 50 US B-61 nuclear warheads (think 100 Hiroshimas times 50) are kept.

According to Izvestia, a Russian lawmaker named Igor Morozov said it was only a matter of time before Turkish president Erdogan hands over the NATO base at Incirlik to the Russians, to intensify the war against ISIS. “You’ll see, the next base will be İncirlik,” Morozov told Izvestia, shortly after the Kremlin had revealed that Russian bombers have been using an Iranian airbase for their attack on Syria. He predicted İncirlik would be “one more victory for Putin.”

Those statements came against the background of a report by EurActiv, a Belgian foundation focusing on European Union policies, that the US has begun to transfer its nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, for fear of the worsening relations between Washington and Ankara.

EurActiv cites a Stimson issue paper from August 2016, suggesting that during the July failed coup in Turkey, the Incirlik base power was cut, and US planes were not allowed to fly in or out of the base. As the coup was being suppressed, the base commander was arrested. Another source told EurActiv that US-Turkey relations have so deteriorated after the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara with the nuclear weapons, and so the warheads are being moved to the Deveselu air base in Romania.

Foreign Policy on Friday debunked the story, quoting a tweet from nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis, the director of non-proliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, that said Romania does not have the special WS3 vaults needed to store the weapons safely. Also, the Romanian Defense Ministry released a statement saying “so far there have not been any plans or discussions on this topic.”

Of course, this entire brouhaha is borne by Erdogan’s obsession with his former ally and current enemy Fetullah Gulen, whose extradition from the US the Turks have been demanding since the failing of the coup (which Gulen’s supporters may or may not been responsible for). As long as the US insists on following the rule of law on the Gulen extradition, the Turks will persist in these shenanigans, until someone gets seriously hurt.

So far, as that Moscow parliamentarian has put it so aptly, one more victory for Putin.

JNi.Media

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/in-netanyahu-meeting-with-putin-tuesday-syria-on-the-table-but-not-iran/2016/06/07/

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