New Cold War.org, Nov 27, 2015
Meeting with French president Francois Hollande in Moscow on November 26, Russia president Vladimir Putin said the Russian military will cease aerial bombing attacks against Western-allied groups in Syria that are seeking the overthrow of Syria’s government and its president, Bashar al-Assad.
The story was the lead item yesterday evening on CBC Radio One news (including here on the 6 pm national evening news broadcast, The World At Six). Hollande went to Moscow to meet with Putin. Below is a Reuters news report on their meeting.
The two leaders spoke to a press conference in Moscow. Translated video of their remarks during 35 minutes are broadcast on RT.com.
At the 17’40” mark, responding to a reporter at Le Monde, Putin referred to the “traitor” Turkey and its “stab in the back” on Nov 24 when the Turkish military shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter-bomber.
A few minutes later, Putin spoke of the oil truck pipeline from Daesh (so-called ISIS)-controlled Syria and Iraq to Turkey which the Turkish government is permitting and which helps to fund Daesh’s counter-revolutionary war. He explained that he brought to the recent G20 summit meeting in Turkey photos and images of the “massive amount” of oil transport being transported by truck. “It’s hard to believe that the Turkish leadership is not aware of this. Theoretically, that is possible, but this does not mean that the Turkish leadership should not stop such illegal business.” He reminded the audience that a special resolution of the UN Security Council directed countries to interrupt and cease such oil trade.
Putin also said Turkey’s explanation of its shoot-down of the Russian plane is not credible. He said that information of Russia’s flights were being communicated to U.S. forces in the region and Russia assumed this was shared with Turkey.
Many Western governments are commenting cautiously on the Nov 24 shoot-down of the Russian warplane because NATO-member Turkey has a long record of aiding and abetting Daesh. In the press conference in Moscow, Hollande speaks at 21’40” on the need for agreement and “understanding” among the countries intervening in Syria. Criticism of Turkey is implied though not stated. He called the shoot-down of the Russian plane “regrettable” and a “misunderstanding”.
Putin was asked by a Russian reporter of exactly what kind of “coalition” against Daesh Russia is considering. He said Russia would prefer one, common coalition but will cooperate with the “U.S.-led coalition”.
In later comments to media, including the Reuters report below, Hollande voiced the ‘regime change’ agenda for Syria which Western countries have been pursuing for years and which is the major cause of the military and humanitarian crisis in the country.
Russian sanctions against Turkey
Russia is initiating widespread and punishing economic sanctions against Turkey. At a cabinet meeting on Nov 26, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that joint investment projects with Turkey would be frozen or cancelled and negotiations over a proposed preferential trade program by Russia with Turkey would be scrapped.
As reported in the Washington Post, Medvedev called upon Russian government agencies to submit recommendations for sanctions within two days. He said measures would limit deliveries of goods, including foodstuffs, and would restrict services and the movement of employees of Turkish companies.
In the southern Kuban region of Russia, Russia’s Migration Service said it had arrested and would deport 39 Turkish businessmen who attended an agricultural expo on tourist visas. Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has suggested that sanctions may affect direct flights between Russia and Turkey.
Among the large projects being suspended are construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which is to be Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, and the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline.
Construction of the Akkuyu plant began in 2011. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea. Opposition to the plan was strong locally in Turkey and also on the nearby island of Cyprus. Turkey is considering building two other nuclear plants, on its Black Sea coastline. Japan and Korea are in the running with Russia to build them.
Turkish Stream capacity has already been scaled back by Russia’s Gazprom following an agreement with German firms announced several months ago to build a second gas pipeline, Nord Stream-2, from Russia to Germany along the Baltic Sea bed.
Turkish Stream is an alternative to an earlier gas pipeline proposal through Turkey that was cancelled by Gazprom. South Stream was to carry gas directly from Russia to Europe via Turkey and the Balkan countries, but the Russian company balked when the European Union insisted that Gazprom had to sell off the gas to a third party once the pipeline hits EU territory. Turkish Stream is to deliver gas to a gas transit hub controlled by Turkish interests on the Turkey-Greece border.
Turkish media is full of stories of the plight of the Turkmen national minority of Syria said to oppose the Syrian government. It turns out that the paramilitary brigade which claimed to have murdered the two crew members of the Russian SU-24 jet shot down (the brigade killed the pilot; the navigator was rescued) is a creation of Turkish intelligence (MIT) and its leaders are not Syrian Turkmen. Its leader, Alparslan Çelik is a Turkish fascist and son of a mayor in Turkey of the extreme-right MHP party. Çelik is reportedly affiliated with the infamous Grey Wolves fascist movement in Turkey. (Report here on Live Leak, and report here in Turkish.)
France, Russia agree to work more closely in Syria
Reuters, Nov 26, 2015 (with video)
Putin: “I believe that the fate of the president of Syria must stay in the hands of the Syrian people,”
France and Russia will exchange intelligence on Islamic State and other rebel groups to improve the effectiveness of their aerial bombing campaigns in Syria, French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday after talks with Vladimir Putin. However, the two men remain at odds over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia whom Western and Sunni Arab countries blame for Syria’s nearly five-year civil war and want removed from power.
Speaking after a working dinner in the Kremlin with Putin on November 26, Hollande said they had agreed to target only Islamic State and similar jihadi groups in Syria. The West has accused Moscow of targeting mostly Western-backed rebel groups fighting Assad.
“What we agreed, and this is important, is to strike only terrorists and Daesh (Islamic State) and to not strike forces that are fighting terrorism. We will exchange information about whom to hit and whom not to hit,” Hollande told a joint news conference with Putin.
France will also increase its support to rebel groups battling Islamic State on the ground in Syria, Hollande added.
Hollande is on a diplomatic offensive to build a common front against the militant Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. Islamic State has also said it downed a Russian plane on Oct. 31 over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, killing all 224 people on board.
Putin said Moscow was ready to unite with Paris against a “mutual enemy”, but he reaffirmed Moscow’s long-standing view that Assad and the Syrian government were also allies in the fight against terrorism. “I believe that the fate of the president of Syria must stay in the hands of the Syrian people,” Putin said, in stark contrast to Hollande, who insisted Assad could play no future political role in the country.
French officials say Putin and Hollande have a good working relationship, but in an initial televised exchange before dinner the two men had appeared uncomfortable and avoided eye contact. Both Russia and France have stepped up their aerial bombing campaigns in Syria since the attacks in Paris.
On Thursday, both Putin and Hollande stressed the need to step up air strikes against vehicles transporting oil across territory controlled by Islamic State and thereby deliver a blow to a key source of financing for the militant group.
Putin used the opportunity of the joint news conference with Hollande to repeat his accusations against Turkey of turning a blind eye to oil smuggling by Islamic State. He said it was “theoretically possible” that Ankara was unaware of oil supplies entering its territory from Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria but added that this was hard to imagine.
Relations between Russia and NATO member Turkey have deteriorated sharply since Turkish forces downed a Russian warplane on Tuesday and Moscow has warned of “serious consequences” for economic ties.
Hollande said the downing of the Russian jet highlighted the need for countries to coordinate their military activities more closely to avoid a possible repetition of what he called a “regrettable incident”. He again called for a “de-escalation” of the tensions between Moscow and Ankara.
Putin also said Russia would keep cooperating with the United States and its partners to fight Islamic State in Syria, but that cooperation will be in jeopardy if there are any repeats of the shooting down of the jet. “We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States. But of course incidents like the destruction of our aircraft and the deaths of our servicemen… are absolutely unacceptable,” Putin said.
‘Fighting common evil’: Putin, Hollande agree to share intelligence on terrorist targets in Syria, article and video on RT.com, Nov 26, 2015 (with 35-minute translated comments by Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande)
Turkey has spent years allowing jihadist groups to flourish – so beware its real reasons for shooting down a Russian plane, by Ranj Alaaldin, The Independent, Nov 25, 2015
‘Turkey has no interest in the peaceful settlement to the conflict in Syria that world powers are negotiating. As Erdogan gets desperate, he will attempt to bring focus back to Assad.’
Commentators: ‘Why down Russian jet? Because fighting ISIS is not really on Turkey’s agenda’, RT.com, Nov 24, 2015 (with video)
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