Tag Archives: Russia

Four Reasons Why Liberation of Aleppo Would Mean an End to the Syrian War

As the Syrian army advances in the jihadist-ravaged city of Aleppo, Russian political analysts explain why the once-vibrant metropolis, formerly home to 2.3 million people, is of prime importance to all the parties of the conflict and can play a key role in settlement of the ongoing crisis.

The first group of residents trapped in Aleppo’s militant-occupied eastern neighborhoods has started to escape through a humanitarian corridor created with Russia’s help, according to reports broadcast by Al Mayadeen TV.

Leaflets were dropped on Thursday over the city with instructions on how to approach checkpoints and a map showing the corridors.

Those who want to leave are supposed to wave the leaflet with their right hand raised above their head and the other hand either around their head or holding a child’s hand, the leaflet reportedly says. While approaching checkpoints the residents are advised to move slowly and to follow the commands of the Syrian military.

Once near checkpoints, they will be required to turn around to demonstrate they do not have explosives on them.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday that Russia and the Syrian government have jointly launched a large-scale humanitarian relief operation in Aleppo, establishing three corridors for civilians and one for militants wishing to lay down arms.

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Thursday that President Assad has issued a decree granting amnesty to all militants who surrender within three months. This prompted “scores of terrorists” to turn themselves in and lay down their arms.

Meanwhile, local media reports suggest that the Syrian government forces are ready to retake the desperate city; they’ve already re-established full control over two more strategic districts along the last access road into opposition-held east Aleppo: the neighborhood Bani Zeid and a second rebel-held district adjacent to Bani Zeid.

A military source told SANA that army engineering units had dismantled the explosives and removed mines from its streets and squares, with the Syrian army establishing full control over the Efrin bus station, youth housing and all the building blocks and factories in al-Liramoun in the northern outskirts of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Shapovalov, the Director of the Institute of Political Science, Law and Social Development has explained to RT why Aleppo, Syria’s most important economic and geopolitical center, might become a key to fully resolving the Syrian conflict.

Aleppo — Syria’s most important economic and trade center with advantageous geopolitical position

“Aleppo is of prime importance to all the parties of the conflict as it is Syria’s most important economic and trade center; the city lies on the crossroad of the country’s trade routes and holds a very advantageous geopolitical position,” he said.

“Full control over Aleppo allows one to control not only all of northern Syria but the whole territory along the border with Turkey, the district inhabited by Kurds, and the territory of northwestern Iraq,” the political analyst explained.

“Aleppo is the dominating center of this whole region. And for the Syrian government forces, for their adversaries, for Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the US it is the key to control over the whole Syrian territory and adjacent regions.”

Hence, Shapovalov said, there’s no wonder that since the very start of the military conflict in the country there has been fierce fighting for this city.

It is the key to control over the whole Syrian territory and adjacent regions

Another political scientist, head of the Center for Middle East and Central Asia Studies Semyon Bagdasarov, also explained that Aleppo is the top strategic point, the economic capital of Syria and its clean-up could be a grandiose victory for Syria and Russia.

“However the liberation of Aleppo without closure of Syrian-Turkish border crossings, first and foremost in the city of Azaz, will be a hard task,” he said.

It is essential for cooperation with the Syrian Kurds

“Azaz — is a Turkish crossing gate and a whole load of arms, ammunition and thousands of militants have got into Syria through this crossing. It must be closed and it could be dome only in alliance with the quasi-state [known as] the Federation of North Syria – Rojava, or otherwise the Syrian Kurds,” Bagdasarov explained.

The political analyst further said why the territory under the control of the Syrian Kurds will play a vital role in the recapture of Aleppo:

“There are over 2,000 NATO servicemen on this territory, including the American special forces and its engineer-sapper battalions and the Danish, UK, French and German units. There is no clear border among them and during an offensive there might be undesirable clashes.”

Vladimir Shapovalov also noted the Kurds, more than anyone else are interested in the liquidation of the jihadists and might become a key ally to President Assad.

“For the Kurds, the most important thing is the fight against the Islamist militants, which are their major adversary in establishing Kurdish autonomy,” he said.

“In such a context, the alliance with the Syrian government is of primary importance to the Kurds, as it is Assad who could ensure the security of the Kurdish areas, not only from the terrorists but from Turkish claims as well,” he added.

Control over Aleppo would allow for the completion of the restoration of the Syrian government’s authority over most of the country

Semyon Bagdasarov also agreed that Aleppo is a sweet spot for Turkey, as it is the gateway to the whole north-west of Syria, including Aleppo Province.

“Turks historically regard Aleppo as their city and think that the population of the city gravitates more towards Turkey, but it is not the case,” he said.

The political analysts agree that the liberation of the city would mean the liberation of Syria and the end of the war.

“Control over Aleppo would allow for the completion of the restoration of the Syrian government’s authority over most of the country, the most densely populated and the most economically developed part of the country” said Vladimir Shapovalov.

“After establishing control over Aleppo, control over the rest of Syria would only take a couple of weeks”, he concluded.

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Russia, Egypt Transport Ministers Discuss Aviation Security at Regular Talks

Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov discussed aviation security measures with his Egyptian counterpart, Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi, the Russian ministry said Friday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov discussed step-by-step aviation security measures at regular consultations with his Egyptian counterpart, Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi, the Russian ministry said Friday.

“Sokolov held another round of technical consultations with his counterpart… The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere, the parties again discussed a step-by-step action plan for measures in the field of civil aviation,” the ministry said.

Sokolov said this week safety experts planned a visit to Egypt to inspect airport security in September.

Fathi announced during a visit to Moscow earlier in July that an investigation into Russia’s A321 passenger plane crash over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015 was entering final stages.

The plane, operated by the Russian air carrier Kogalymavia and carrying 224 people, was heading to St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh. Russia’s Investigative Committee has officially classified the plane crash as a terrorist attack.

The Day That OPEC Died: Saudis Aim to Bankrupt Cartel, Seek Oil Monopoly

The oil export alliance failed to reach an agreement to cap production on Thursday. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih again walked away from the table as the kingdom looks to consolidate market share.

The collapse in negotiations, along with a forward-looking refusal by the influential Saudi delegation to consider capping production, means a free-for-all fight for market share among the world’s oil producers that is all but certain to lead to collapsing oil prices.

Economic analysts have already raised the alarm that oil-export dependent countries like Venezuela, Algeria, and war-torn Libya, who lack access to global credit markets, will be unable to weather the storm, leading to humanitarian crises and widespread social strife.

Why is Saudi Arabia pushing for overproduction?

In February 2016, world oil prices cascaded to $27 per barrel, down from a July 2008 peak of $145 per barrel, as the Saudis ramped up oil production from a 2009 dip. In the midst of the 2008 market crash, Saudi’s top oil official, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, called for the kingdom to immediately increase oil production to 11.5 million barrels of oil per day, and then to 12.5 million barrels daily by the end of 2016.

Energy market analysts initially scoffed at the aggressive move to undercut world oil prices, noting that Saudi Arabia’s own budget is dependent on a $66.70 per barrel oil price, with oil-extraction prices much higher for other OPEC countries. Market watchers predicted that Saudi Arabia would eventually push the oil alliance to cap production so as to keep prices at economically sustainable levels.

Saudi Arabia instead sought to increase market share when competitor peers were at their most vulnerable. North American oil producers, unlike Saudi Arabia, are not state-sponsored enterprises propped up by government handouts during down markets. When these US and Canadian oil resource industries fell into bankruptcy they became ripe for capture by foreign investors.

As energy analyst Marin Katusa told Radio Sputnik, Saudi Arabia has swooped into the North American energy market, through private equity firms, buying US and Canadian fracking technology and oil fields at pennies on the dollar.

Similarly, the kingdom looks to rebuff efforts by other OPEC members to expand oil market share. By pushing oil prices to their lowest level in years, the Saudis look to not only bankrupt Western oil companies, but also render insolvent entire oil producing states in order to snatch up foreign oil resources on the cheap.

Oil prices have recovered some in recent months, to $49 per barrel, due to oil disruptions in Canada after the Fort McMurray fire and oil extraction remaining offline in war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria.

Before Thursday’s OPEC meeting, Radio Sputnik sat down with Justin Dargin, Global Energy Scholar at the University of Oxford to discuss the fracturing of OPEC and the kingdom’s plans to corner oil energy markets.

Do OPEC member states face a fiscal crisis if an agreement is not reached?

“Yes, the breakeven oil price, which is the price that most OPEC member states need for their budgets to remain solvent, for most Gulf States, is between $80 and $100 per barrel, to maintain their budgetary outlays without having to go into some kind of major deficit,” said Dargin. “The price currently is not viable for the long term, but I believe there is this sentiment for the OPEC members that prices may rebound in the future.”

The analyst suggested that the market rebound over the past few months may be little more than an oasis for the smaller, fiscally-strapped OPEC member states, based primarily on seasonal demand changes, especially an increase in demand during the summer for air conditioning, travel, and leisure.

Dargin noted that he does not expect that market prices will recover in the near-term, citing a lack of structural changes in the market after prices collapsed to a low of $27 in February.

Can smaller OPEC member states survive these historically low prices?

“We can see already that in the case of Venezuela that they are not weathering it very well and they don’t have as much sway in OPEC as other members,” said Dargin. “It will be quite hard for Venezuela and the smaller producers to encourage or force Saudi Arabia to come to an agreement.”

“Many of these smaller oil producers like Venezuela and Algeria will not be able to weather the storm and it will be a very rough road ahead,” he said.

Putin calls for non-aligned international security system in face of global terror threat

May 9, 2016. Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 WWII, on Moscow's Red Square.

May 9, 2016. Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 WWII, on Moscow’s Red Square.

Vladimir Putin said Russia is all for creating a non-aligned system of international security to counter global terror. The president, speaking at the V-Day parade in Moscow, called on all nations to learn the lessons of WWII.

“Today our civilization has faced brutality and violence – terrorism has become a global threat,” the Russian president said, addressing the crowds on Moscow’s Red Square ahead of a parade dedicated to the 71st anniversary of victory in WWII. “We must defeat this evil, and Russia is open to join forces with all countries and is ready to work on the creation of a modern, non-aligned system of international security.”

According to the Russian leader, the lessons of the World War II showed that “double standards” and “short-sighted indulgence to those who are nurturing new criminal plans” are unacceptable.

“The lessons of history show that peace on our planet doesn’t establish itself, that you need to be on high alert,” he said.

The Great Patriotic War (the term used in Russia and former Soviet republics to describe the conflict on the Eastern Front from 1941-45) will always remain “an outstanding, sacred heroic deed of our people, a call to live according to conscience, to keep the height of the truth and justice, to transfer these values from generation to generation,” the president added.

“Our fathers and grandfathers defeated the powerful, merciless enemy, in front of whom many countries folded,” Putin said.

“It was our servicemen who gave the Nazis and their accomplices full retaliation for millions of victims, for all the barbarities and excesses on our land.”

Putin added that Russian soldiers have proven that they are “worthy successors to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War who are defending the country’s interests with honor.”

“I’m sure the veterans today are proud of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren – they are not letting [the veterans] down and will always remember the great victory, the heroic deeds of the glorious generation of victors,” he said.

Seventy-one years ago, Nazi Germany was defeated. Almost 80 percent of the world’s population was caught up in the war, including all of the great powers, and a total of 55 million people were killed in the conflict.

The Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The following four years of fighting saw 27 million Soviet people killed.

In Europe, V-Day commemorations started on Sunday, as the Nazi Germany’s Instrument of Surrender came into force at 22:43 CET on May 8, 1945. In Moscow it was already 00:43, on May 9.

 

9,000 sorties, 400 localities freed: What Russia has achieved during its 5-month Syria operation

As Russia’s Vladimir Putin announced the start of the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has reported the anti-terror operation’s achievements to the Commander-in-Chief.

“Backed by our aviation, Syrian forces have freed 400 populated areas and over 10,000 square kilometers [3,860 square miles] of territories,” Shoigu said during a Kremlin meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Terrorists have been forced out from Latakia and Aleppo, and Palmyra has been “blocked,” the military official reported to Putin, saying that military actions to free the UNESCO heritage site from militants continue. Hama and Homs Provinces in central Syria have been largely mopped up, and Kuweires airbase that had been besieged by terrorists for over three years was retaken.

Saying that Russia’s Air Force in Syria has conducted more than 9,000 sorties starting from September 30, 2015, the Defense Minister added that for the first time massive strikes at a range over 1,500 kilometers [930 miles] with both air and ship-launched missiles have been conducted.

With Russia’s support from the air, the Syrian army managed to retake control of oil and gas fields near Palmyra.

Three large fields have already started functioning in normal mode, the minister added.

In all, 209 oil production facilities and almost 3,000 oil delivery vehicles have been destroyed by Russia’s airstrikes.

“As a result of airstrikes, terrorists’ resources’ provision has been largely cut,” Shoigu told Putin, saying that petroleum trade routes with Turkey, as well as main routes of weapons provisions to terrorists have been blocked

Putin orders surprise Syria withdrawal – Beginning Tuesday

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In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to start withdrawing the “main part” of its forces in Syria from Tuesday.

He said the Russian intervention had largely achieved its objectives.

The comments come amid fresh peace talks in Geneva aimed at resolving the five-year Syrian conflict.

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose office said in a statement he had agreed to the move.

The pullout was “in accordance with the situation on the ground”, the statement said.

Russia began its campaign of air strikes in Syria last September, tipping the balance in favour of the Syrian government and allowing it to recapture territory from rebels.

Telephone conversation with President of Syria Bashar al-Assad • President of Russia

The two presidents discussed the implementation of the joint statement by Russia and the United States, in their capacity as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group, on cessation of hostilities in Syria. They share the view that the ceasefire has made possible a dramatic reduction in the bloodshed in the country and improved the humanitarian situation. It has also made it possible to put in place conditions for starting a peace process under UN aegis.

The two leaders noted that the operations conducted by Russia’s Aerospace Forces have brought about a real turnabout in the fight against the terrorists in Syria, throwing their infrastructure into disarray and causing them substantial damage.

In this context, Mr Putin said that Russia’s Armed Forces have fulfilled their main mission in Syria and a timetable for the withdrawal of the Aerospace Forces’ main air grouping has been agreed. Russia will maintain an aviation support centre in Syria in order to monitor compliance with the ceasefire.

The President of Syria noted the professionalism, courage and heroism of the Russian service personnel who took part in the military operations, and expressed his profound gratitude to Russia for providing such substantial help in fighting terrorism and providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population.

Mr al-Assad said that he is ready to help organise a political settlement in the country as soon as possible. The two presidents expressed the hope that the full-format talks between Syrian Government officials and opposition representatives under UN aegis in Geneva will produce concrete results.

Source:  • President of Russia

Intra-Syrian Talks in Geneva Likely to Continue Until March 19 – Source

An informed source at the talks told Sputnik that the current round of Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva will most likely last until Friday.

The current round of Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva will most likely last until Friday, March 19, an informed source at the talks told Sputnik on Sunday.

“Most likely, this round of Intra-Syrian talks won’t go beyond Friday, March 19, ” the source said.

A new round of talks between the Syrian opposition and the country’s government is scheduled to start on Monday, and is expected to be over by March 24.

 

‘Iran, Russia the Most Stable and Independent Players in the Middle East’

With Syria plunged into civil war and the terrorist threat in neighboring Iraq high, Sputnik discussed the situation in the region with Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, a senior adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“The current instability in the Middle East is reflecting very negatively on the situation in the rest of the world. The region is infested with terrorists from Finland, France, Britain, Russia and Central Asia and this is the new challenge and the new geopolitical reality Iran is facing today,” Mr. Sajjadpour said.He mentioned what he described as “trans-regional players” impacting the situation in the region, above all the US, Britain, France and Germany.

There is also a second group of players, namely Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. The Saudi policy is shortsighted and erratic. Turkey is in political turmoil over its meddling with the crisis in neighboring Syria.

“And last, but not least, it is Daesh, which is both a transnational and internal player,” Seyed Sajjadpour noted.
He described Iran as a strong and influential player, with a high degree of political and social security.

“Millions of Iranians took part in the recent parliamentary elections ensuring a peaceful handover of political power fully in line with the constitution and without violence and conflicts like is often the case with our neighboring countries,” the diplomat said.

He heaped praise on Russia for its role in the settlement of regional conflicts, especially in tandem with Iran.

“We are opening a new chapter in relations between our two countries, which are based on respect for each other’s national identity and independence. Our concerted effort has helped to change the course of the civil war in Syria. Many countries now believe that Russia and Iran can stabilize the situation in the Middle East,” the diplomat emphasized.

When asked whether Moscow and Tehran had different views on who is a terrorist and who is not, Seyed Sajjadpour said: “For us anyone engaged in an armed struggle with the legitimate Syrian government is a terrorist and we see eye to eye with Russia on the need to fight terrorists in Syria… It is our firm belief that it is up to the Syrian people to decide their country’s future.”

Yugoslavi-zation: Ex NATO Chief Urges Dividing Syria Into Three Parts

NATO’s former supreme allied commander James Stavridis has become the latest high-profile backer of dividing Syria into several parts although the strategy hardly enjoys support in the war-torn country and could well lead to Islamic extremists overrunning the greater part of the Arab Republic.

“Like Humpty Dumpty in the children’s nursery rhyme, the odds of putting Syria back together again into a functioning entity appear very low. It is time to consider a partition,” he suggested in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy. Syria could then be divided into three regions governed by Alawites, moderate Sunnis and the Kurds.

The retired four-star US Navy admiral, who currently serves as the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, offered three cases that could serve as a model for Syria. All of them hardly tempting.

“Obviously, the approach for a partition could range from a full break-up of the country (much as Yugoslavia broke up after the death of Marshal Josip Tito); to a very federated system like Bosnia after the Dayton Accords; to a weak but somewhat federated model like Iraq,” he detailed.

These are by no means good options. Take Iraq for instance. The country has not seen peace since the 2003 US invasion. In the years that followed Baghdad has largely unsuccessfully tried to tackle an insurgency that has the potential to break up the country.

Stavridis himself admitted that partitioning is an extremely dangerous scenario to explore. Firstly, it would set what he referred to as a “bad precedent” that would encourage disenfranchised minorities all over the world and potentially lead to “chaotic scenarios.”

Partitions are “also difficult to negotiate, requiring detailed knowledge of the human terrain in a failed state and carving out complex compromises that often leave no one satisfied and can plant the seeds of conflicts yet to come,” he added.

In addition, granting greater autonomy or independence to ethnic minorities could cause major tensions in neighboring countries. Ankara is already carrying out a military campaign against Kurdish militants at home, in Iraq and Syria. One could only guess what steps Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies would take if the Syrian Kurds form a state of their own.

Partitions are also “difficult to implement, because most of the parties are unhappy with some aspect of the final deal. Finally, partitions are cumbersome under international law, which generally sides with sovereign states and seeks to support existing unified territory,” he added.In essence, there appears to be no need to consider dividing Syria, taking into account that the UN-backed ceasefire is largely holding and peace talks are slated to start on Monday. Moreover, Syria’s fate could only be determined by its people and should not follow a plan introduced from outside.

Furthermore, in Syria’s case partition could lead to greater violence and misery in a country that has already lost 250,000 lives. “Unfortunately, an immediate partition would effectively cede much of Syria to Sunni extremists,” Stavridis observed.