Russia and Turkey held joint naval drills in the Black Sea region Wednesday as the nations found themselves aligned with opposing sides in conflicts in Europe and the Middle East.
Russia's Black Sea Fleet joined the Turkish navy in the strategic body of water, which has been a source of heightened tensions due to parallel military exercises by Russia and members of NATO, of which Turkey was a part. Russia deployed its Kalibr cruise missile-equipped Admiral Grigorovich frigate, Udaloy-class Vice Admiral Zakharin destroyer and Raptor patrol boat to participate in the operations while Turkey sent its Barbados frigate and the Ada-class Buyukada corvette. Vyacheslav Trukhachev, the spokesperson for Russia's Black Sea Fleet, said the vessels trained for joint defense and rescue operations.
"As part of the drill, ships of the two countries practiced… exit from a naval base, joint maneuvering and communication, as well as repelling an attack of a small-sized high-speed target, an inspection operation, search for and rescue of a person in the water," Trukhachev told reporters, according to Russia's Sputnik News.
Both nations have participated in the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, but disagree on the legitimacy of Assad's government and the role of U.S.-backed Kurdish militants, which Ankara has labeled as terrorists for their links to insurgents in Turkey. Turkey's foreign ministry said Wednesday it had reminded Russia and fellow Syrian government ally, Iran, of their responsibility to adhere to a ceasefire between the Syrian army and non-jihadist rebel groups after an alleged chemical attack reportedly killed dozens in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwestern Syria. The U.S., U.K. and France have accused Assad of conducting the attack, while Russia has argued the attack was the result of a Syrian army airstrike on a nearby chemical weapons storage facility used by rebels.
Damascus has repeatedly warned the UN Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that the terrorists of Daesh and Nusra Front were bringing weapons to Syria from Iraq and Turkey, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Thursday.
"Nusra Front and [Daesh] and other organizations continued to store chemical weapons in urban and residential areas. And we have sent more than a hundred telegrams to the Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, telling them or sending them information about chemical weapons being brought to Syria from Iraq and from Turkey," Muallem said.
Damascus is in contact with Moscow regarding the idea to create a committee to investigate the reported chemical attack in the Syrian Idlib province, the country's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Thursday.
Yesterday, the Russian representative at the United Nations made a proposal for forming a neutral and non-politicized committee to initiate investigations. Our experience with such commissions, because by now we are used to these commissions, because we have been subject to such accusations, has not been encouraging… We condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere against anybody… but in order not to jump to conclusions we are coordinating with the Russian side in order to see what the efforts aimed at forming that committee are," Muallem said.
Any commission to investigate the reported chemical attack in Syria's province of Idlib "should be neutral, not politicized," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem emphasized.
According to the minister, any such commission should start its work "from Damascus."
On Tuesday, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces reported that some 80 people were killed and 200 injured earlier on that day in a chemical weapon attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib, blaming the Syrian army for the incident. A source in the Syrian army later told Sputnik that the army did not have chemical weapons and the allegations could be part of anti-Damascus propaganda.
The Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday issued an official statement expressing “deep concern” over the state of affairs of the Israel-Palestinian Authority relationship, and implying that when eastern Jerusalem becomes the capital of a future Palestinian State, Moscow would also recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – something no world power has done.
The statement said: “Moscow is deeply concerned about the state of affairs in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. While Palestinians and Israelis have not been conducting political negotiations for almost three years, the situation on the ground is steadily degrading.
“Vacuum in the Middle East peace process creates a favorable ground for unilateral steps that undermine the prospects of an internationally recognized solution to the Palestinian problem, according to which the two states – Israel and Palestine – will coexist in peace and security with each other and all their neighbors.
“Moscow continues to consider the formula for negotiating a two-state settlement of an optimal and friendly to us Palestinian and Israeli people, as well as to the interests of all countries in the region and the world community as a whole.
“We reaffirm our commitment to the UN resolutions on the principles of settlement, including the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we consider it necessary to say that in this context we regard West Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.
Pope Francis met with four British imams in the Vatican Wednesday morning, just two weeks after an Islamic radical drove his car through pedestrians on a crowded London bridge, killing three.
An official press release from the Vatican said that the Pope had received in audience “a delegation of Muslim leaders from Great Britain,” which included the president of Majlis e ulama Europe, the chairman of the British Muslim Forum, a co-chair of the Christian-Muslim Forum and the director general of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.
According to a news report from the Associated Press, the pontiff’s meeting with Muslim leaders from Great Britain represents “part of his effort to give prominence and a platform to Muslim leaders who renounce using religion to justify violence.”
In an interview Tuesday, one of the four imams, the vice-president of the Christian Muslim Forum, Ibrahim Mogra, called Pope Francis “a brave man” for his willingness to defend Muslims.
“He is the only one who has had the courage to say that Islam is a religion of peace,” Mogra said. “He is a true Christian, because he looks at the human person apart from religious membership.”
“Every religion is against violence,” Mogra said, “and teaches peaceful living as citizens who respect the law.”
Mogra also said that people in the West are guilty of a “double standard” in dealing with predominantly Muslim nations.
All these months, it turns out, it was his right-hand hatchet gal and exposed serial prevaricator Susan Rice who was behind the scenes in his administration working all the levers of the most powerful espionage machine on planet Earth to spy on Mr. Obama’s political enemies.
This is jaw-dropping, bombshell information.
Not because it reveals Susan “Benghazi was about a video” Rice to be a liar. We already knew that.
Not because it exposed the Obama administration as the most nakedly partisan presidency in modern history, willing to use even the most sacred powers of the federal government for political purposes. We already knew that too.
What is so astonishing about the revelation that Ms. Rice was the one unmasking Donald Trump and his campaign before, during and after he won the presidency is that it doesn’t get any closer to Barack Obama himself.
Ms. Rice was Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, one of his closest aides. They spoke all the time. She worked directly for him. Here she was spying on Mr. Obama’s political enemies while in daily contact with him at the very height of the most contentious presidential election in memory. You don’t think she and the president discussed this?
The revelation that Ms. Rice was the operator behind the spying answers just one question. But it raises a thousand more.
When, exactly, did Ms. Rice start using the U.S. government’s spy operation as a weapon against Mr. Obama’s political opponents?
What conversations did she have with the president about the intel gleaned about Mr. Trump and other political enemies of Mr. Obama?
As was asked of an earlier president amid far smaller crimes: What did the president know, and when did he know it?
What other opponents running for the Republican nomination was the Obama administration spying on? Were any of those political enemies “unmasked” and disseminated across government agencies? Was any of that intelligence leaked to the press?
And a constitution crisis that raises dire questions about whether any American citizen is safe from the espionage thuggery of the politically powerful.