Russia and US to hold Syria talks in Moscow (2)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to hold talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow to discuss the crisis in Syria.

Mr Kerry's visit comes after Israel launched two air strikes in southern Syria.

Russia condemned the attacks as threatening regional stability.

Ahead of Mr Kerry's visit, Russia's foreign ministry called on the West to stop politicizing the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, BBC Moscow correspondent Steven Rosenberg reports.

It expressed concern that world public opinion was being prepared for possible military intervention, he adds.

"The further escalation of armed confrontation sharply increases the risk of creating new areas of tension and the destabilization of the so-far relatively calm atmosphere on the Lebanese-Israeli border," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Syrian government called the attacks a "flagrant violation of international law", which had made the Middle East "more dangerous" and opened "the door wide to all possibilities".

After his visit to Russia, Mr Kerry will travel to Rome to meet with Italian and Jordanian officials to discuss Middle East issues.


Moscow Worried by Airstrikes on Syria

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday described the reports of recent Israeli airstrikes on Syria as “particularly worrying.”

“We are also verifying and analyzing all circumstances surrounding the particularly worrying reports of airstrikes on Damascus suburbs carried out by Israel on May 3 and 5,” Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement,according to RIA Novosti.

“The further escalation of an armed confrontation sharply increases the risk of new hotbeds of tension forming, which, apart from Syria, might also emerge in Lebanon,” the spokesman said in a statement published on the ministry’s website.

He said that the airstrikes might also “destabilize the situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border, which so far remains relatively calm.”


Independent probe must be launched into use of war chemicals in Syria - Russian diplomat

Russia continues to insist on an independent expert study of the use of war chemicals in Aleppo, Syria, given the conclusion of a UN special commission on its possible use by opposition forces.

"The UN special commission believes that war chemicals in Syria could have been used by the armed opposition.The conclusion was drawn based on a poll of witnesses," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov posted in his Twitter account.

"This fact once again proves the need for an independent expert examination of what happened in Aleppo in April," he said.

Moscow has called for stopping politicization of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"For our part, we insistently appeal for stopping politicization of this extremely serious question and escalation of the anti-Syrian atmosphere. We reaffirm the impermissibility of dragging out under far-fetched and dangerous pretexts a response to the Syrian government's appeal to the UN with regard to the claimed use of chemical armaments by opposition armed units in Khan al-Assal on March 19," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.


UN's del Ponte says evidence 'rebels' used sarin

Testimony from victims of the Syrian conflict suggests' rebels 'have used the nerve agent sarin, according to a leading United Nations investigator.

Carla del Ponte told Swiss TV there were "strong, concrete suspicions ".

However, she said her panel had not yet seen evidence of government forces using chemical weapons.

Syria has recently come under growing Western pressure over the alleged use of such weapons.

Ms del Ponte, who serves on the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said in an interview with Swiss-Italian TV: "Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals.

"According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated."

She gave no details of when or where sarin may have been used.

Her commission was established in August 2011 .

It is due to issue its latest report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.


Afghan roadside bomb kills five US Nato soldiers

A roadside bomb has killed five US soldiers serving as part of the Nato force in southern Afghanistan, the alliance says.

The deaths came after three British troops were killed by a roadside bomb this week in southern Helmand province ,according to the BBC.

The Taliban launched its annual spring offensive on Sunday, saying it would target foreign military bases and diplomatic areas.

Nato is in the process of handing security operations to Afghan forces.

Some areas have already been transferred. Just over 100,000 soldiers are still serving with Isaf; they are due to be withdrawn by the end of 2014.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) released a statement saying simply Saturday's bomb was an "improvised explosive device".

The statement did not give further details of the bomb's location or the nationality of those killed, but police in Kandahar and unnamed US officials told news agencies the troops were American.

The deaths bring the toll for coalition troops in 2013 to 47, 37 of which were American.

Most Nato troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 - when all combat operations are due to finish - although a small number will remain in support roles.


Syria Efforts Aimed at Political Dialog - UN Spokesman

UNITED NATIONS - The parties to the conflict in Syria should seek political dialog, a UN spokesman said Friday.

“Clearly, the whole aim of international efforts is political dialogue as a way to move forward and to end the bloodshed,” Martin Nesirky told journalists when asked to comment on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s statement,according to RIA Novosti.

Lavrov said in Ljubljana Friday that Moscow is ready to hold talks with all representatives of the Syrian opposition


Lavrov: arming groups contradicts Int'l legitimacy

LJUBLJANA,(ST)_Russia's Foreign Minister has said that arming groups and not states contradicts the international legitimacy, calling for the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué issued on June30. 

Sergei Lavrov was speaking on Friday in a joint  conference with his Slovenian counterpart, Karl Erjavec  in Ljubljana.

The RT quoted Lavror as saying : "Talking about possibility of supplying opposition with lethal or non-lethal weapons and equipment indicates betting on military solution and not political one. "

"Those who are talking about military solution must realize that the achievement of their geo-political interests will lead to more victims in Syria."

He noted that Washington underscored, during recent communications with Moscow, its support for political solution to the crisis in Syria.

Regarding matter of Syrian displaced citizens (Syrian refugees), Lavrov said that his county opposes exploitation of this matter to establish humanitarian corridors and No-fly zones.

On the other hand, Lavrov underscored that Moscow is ready for talks with all groups of Syrian opposition.

"But we should search for ways of ending violence neither in Moscow nor in other countries but in direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition under the Geneva Communiqué," Lavrov said.  

B. Qaddour

US Rethinks Arming Syria "Rebels", says Chuck Hagel

WASHINGTON (ST) _ US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged his government is no longer ruling out arming Syrian what he considered "rebels" fighting in Syria .

Speaking in Washington Hagel confirmed the US was reconsidering its opposition to providing weapons to , what he called  Syrian "rebels," but stressed that no decision had been made yet. "Arming the "rebels" - that's an option," he told reporters.

"You look at and rethink all options. It doesn't mean you do or you will. These are options that must be considered with the international community: what is possible, what can help accomplish [our] objectives."

Reuters reported Hagel made the comments at a joint news conference with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.

Hammond said the UK had so far been unable to provide weapons because of an EU ban on arming terrorist groups fighting in Syria

But "we will look at the situation when that ban expires in a few weeks' time," he added.

Hagel and his British counterpart indicated that existing evidence of alleged chemical weapon was not sufficient to trigger an international response in Syria .

Hammond said the public still remembered that claims of weapons of mass destruction, which led to the Iraq invasion in 2003, turned out to be incorrect.

"There is a very strong view that we have to have very clear, very high-quality evidence before we make plans and act on that evidence," he said.

Media reports revealed the involvement of Washington in providing terrorist groups in Syria, with weapons ,  used in shedding the blood of the Syrian people, including weapons transported from  Zagreb  and Libya to terrorists in Syria and  training terrorists fighting in Syria  in camps in Jordan , as acknowledged  by U.S. Senate Rand Paul last February.


T. Fateh