Chinese Foreign Minister stresses China will continue to positive and constructive efforts towards a solution acceptable to all sides

BEIJING -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi  urged the Syrian government and opposition to start talks to find solutions, according to Xinhua.

"No matter how big the issue is, how deep the discrepancy is and how hard the difficulties are, as long as Syria's two sides sit down, start a conversation and talk on, with the joint efforts of international community, a solution acceptable to all sides will come up," Wang told a media briefing on Saturday afternoon.

Wang's comments came ahead of the Geneva II conference on Syria, which is scheduled to start next Wednesday.

"Whether the Geneva II conference will take place as scheduled is an issue of major concern for the international community," Wang said.

"For both sides, starting talks is a major achievement in itself and a major threshold," Wang said.

Wang reviewed the three-year conflict in Syria, stressing the situation is very complicated and the reality showed military means can't resolve it.

"Political solutions through dialogue is the only correct path and the consensus of the international community, Wang said.

He stressed China will continue to positive and constructive efforts towards a solution acceptable to all sides.


Russian MPs arrive in Syria ahead of Geneva II

BEIRUT- A delegation of Russian MPs arrived in Syria on Saturday, January 18, ahead of the international conference Geneva II convened in a bid to end the crisis in this country.

 “The purpose of our visit ahead of this important international event is to help strengthen Russia’s positions in the peaceful settlement of the crisis in Syria,” Alexander Yushchenko, a member of the Energy Committee in the State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, told ITAR-TASS.

The delegation is on its way to Damascus, accompanied by members of Syrian public and religious organizations. In the evening, the delegation is scheduled to meet with the leadership of the Syrian parliament.

Contemporaneously with the visit, Russia will deliver humanitarian aid to Syria on Sunday, January 19.

Russia has played a key role in organizing the peace conference, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.

In his opinion, Russian diplomats “deserve the main credit for getting the Syrian parties’ consent to attend the conference.”

 “We are going to Geneva with one condition only: we want the dialogue to succeed,” the diplomat said.

The date of the conference was announced in November 2013 and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent invitations to participants on January 6, 2014.

Thirty countries are listed as external participants of Geneva II. It is not clear yet whether or not Iran will be invited.

The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, will now be held in two parts, with the opening session in Montreux, and, after a day’s break, moving on January 24 to the world body’s headquarters in Geneva. The conference will bring the Syrian government and the "opposition "to a negotiating table for the first time since the crisis started in March 2011.

The talks would not be open-ended, and a time frame would be set once the negotiations started.


Italy's Gioia Tauro announced as transfer port for Syrian chemical agents

Italy on Thursday named the port of GioiaTauro in the Calabria region to receive Syrian chemical agents, including mustard gas, despite fierce opposition from local officials who slammed the move as undemocratic, according to ITAR TASS.

"The government has chosen the port of GioiaTauro as particularly appropriate," Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi told lawmakers at a parliamentary hearing on the operation to take place by the beginning of February.

The operation to transfer some 500 tons of Syria's deadliest chemicals from a Danish ship to a US vessel is part of a UN-backed plan to destroy the war-torn country's chemical weapons arsenal by June 30.

Lupi said that an estimated 60 containers containing the chemicals, including mustard gas and the ingredients for the nerve agents sarin and VX, would be transferred from one ship to the other using cranes.

"There will be no stocking on land," he said.

But the mayor of GioiaTauro, Renato Bellofiore, spoke out against the plan following press reports and just before the decision was officially announced.


UN Human Rights Commissioner condemns mass executions by "rebels" in Syria

According to a communiqué, received by the ITAR-TASS news agency, the Human Rights Commissioner points out that quite a few mass executions of civilians and the military who are no longer involved in combat operations by Syria's radical opposition groups, including the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", have been reported from Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa over the past two weeks.

"While exact numbers are difficult to verify, reliable eyewitness testimony that we have gathered suggests that many civilians and "rebels" in the custody of extremist armed opposition groups have been executed since the beginning of this year," she said in a statement.

"Executions and unlawful killings are in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes," the statement said.

Pillay said the reported mass executions in the north of Syria can be construed as war crimes.


Al-Moallem, Lavrov to Hold Talks on Preparations for Geneva II Conference

MOSCOW- Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will hold talks in Moscow on Friday.

 A Russian Foreign Ministry statement announced on Thursday that the meeting will focus on preparations for the Geneva II international conference on Syria, which should be convened in the Swiss city of Montreux on January 22nd and on problems facing the implementation of the UN resolution on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.

"The conference is intended to ensure the launch of an inter-Syrian dialogue involving representative delegations of the SAR government and the (opposition) based on the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012 without preconditions," it said, according to the Voice of Russia.

"The decisions to be made within the framework of the upcoming Geneva process should be a product of mutual consent of the Syrian parties and cannot be imposed on the negotiating parties by anyone," it said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry intends "to work intensely together with US partners and the UN so that the SAR government and the opposition take a number of practical humanitarian steps in the interests of forming a favorable atmosphere in the run-up to the conference," it said.

"Problems with the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2118 and Russia's practical assistance in implementing the plan of eliminating the Syrian chemical weapons will also be discussed at negotiations with Moallem in Moscow, with an emphasis placed on overcoming the difficulties existing in this process," the ministry said.

The agenda of the negotiations traditionally contains relevant aspects of Russian-Syrian bilateral relations and the provision of Russian humanitarian aid to the Syrian people who suffer the repercussions of terrorism.

H. Mustafa

Russia expects all parties that can contribute to Syria settlement to take part in Geneva-2 - Putin

Russia expects all parties that could make a positive contribution to the settlement of the crisis in Syria to take part in the upcoming Geneva-2 international conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. "We'll be doing all we can so that the conference helps arrange dialogue and to stop the senseless bloodshed," Putin said at a ceremony of accepting credentials from the ambassadors of a number of countries on Thursday.

"The international community's efforts to prepare the conference on Syria should be actively supported," he said.

"We expect all parties capable of making a positive contribution to the crisis  settlement to take part in" the conference, he said,according to Voice of Russia, RIA, TASS, Interfax.


Lavrov, Kerry agree to meet at Syria conference in Montreux

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Syria conference in Montreux on January 22, the Foreign Ministry said.

The agreement was reached during a telephone conversation between Lavrov and Kerry on Wednesday, January 15,according to Voice of Russia.

"The minister and the secretary agreed to keep in touch and to meet on the sidelines of the Syria conference in Montreux on January 22," the ministry said.

According to the statement, "under discussion were international issues, including the preparations for the peace conference on Syria, measures to facilitate the humanitarian crisis in the country, and the settlement of the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme".

Besides, Russia’s Foreign Ministry emphasized that it is necessary to strictly observe the earlier reached multilateral agreements, avoiding any misinterpretation in this field and forced unilateral measures.

US confirms Kerry’s participation in Geneva-2

The US State Department has officially confirmed Wednesday that US Secretary of State John Kerry would take part in the international conference on Syria.

Spokesperson for the US State Department Jen Psaki said that John Kerry will stay in Montreux and Davos (Switzerland) from January 21st to 25th.

"In Montreux US Secretary of State will take part in the ministerial-level international conference on Syria, organized by the United Nations, which is also known as the Geneva-2 conference", Psaki said.


Northern Fleet aircraft carrier group to ensure security of Syrian chemical weapons

ST. PETERSBURG- Northern Fleet’s aircraft carrier group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser will take part in ensuring security of Syrian chemical weapons to be transported to the Mediterranean Sea due to be eliminated then, an official of the Russian Navy Main Headquarters told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.

“After refueling in the west of the Mediterranean Sea the aircraft carrier group will leave for the eastern area of the Mediterranean near the coast of Syria where it is used in a maritime phase of the operation for ensuring security while Syrian chemical weapons will be eliminated,” the official said.

“The Admiral Levchenko destroyer jointly with ships of other states or independently is planning to accompany foreign vessels with components of Syrian chemical weapons from the port of Latakia,” he said, adding, “The Su-33 fighters are expected to put an umbrella over Syrian chemical arsenals.”

The Admiral Levchenko will ensure security for eliminating chemical weapons in parallel with the PyotrVelikiy heavy nuclear rocket cruiser or replace it because “it is not expedient to such vessel to carry out the task. Now this problem is being finalized”, the official said.

The aircraft-carrying group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov is passing through Gibraltar to the Mediterranean water area. The first group, involving the Admiral Kuznetsov and the Admiral Levchenko, have entered the Mediterranean Sea. The second group will pass through the straits in the afternoon.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service reported, “On January 7, the PyotrVelikiy heavy missile cruiser in close cooperation with China’s missile frigate ‘Yancheng’ carried out a responsible task to accompany and ensure security of the Danish ship ‘Ark Futura’ with the first batch of chemical weapons.”

“The task was carried out successfully,” the ministry said.