Russia to transfer $2 mln to UN fund to transport Syrian chemical weapons

Russia has decided to allocate $2 million to the UN fund to assist in transferring Syrian chemical weapons to platforms in order to destroy them, director of the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade department for the implementation of the Convention's obligations, Viktor Kholstov, said.

"Russia has decided to assist in transferring funds to the UN in order to carry out necessary measures related to the transfer of the chemical weapons from the storage facility in Syria to these platforms [in the United States] for their further destruction," Kholstov told reporters on Thursday. The funds to be allocated amount to $2 million, he said, according to Voice of Russia, Interfax


Russia can be proud of principal positions on international issues

MOSCOW_ Russia has made a major input into settlement of vital lasting international problems, including those related to Syria, or the Iranian nuclear programme, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told a big news conference on Thursday.

However, he said, no results could be possible “without the joint efforts with the Americans, Europeans, with the Chinese friends,” he said. “We may be proud of what and how we have been doing in the international arena. We may be proud of the principal positions… based on the major principles of the international law. But I would like to stress once again: without joint work with our counterparts it would have not been possible to achieve those results.”

 “We are grateful to the counterparts from the US, the European Commission for the joint work,” Putin said, according to ITAR TASS.


Russia Joins Operation to Remove Chemical Weapons From Syria

MOSCOW_Russia will send armored trucks to Syria as part of an international effort to remove chemical weapons from the Arab  country for destruction at sea, the international watchdog overseeing the operation said in a statement posted online Wednesday, according to  RIA Novosti.

Russia is also ready to provide security for cargo operations at the port of Latakia and in Syrian territorial waters while weapons stocks are transferred to a US navy ship that will “neutralize” the chemicals, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in the statement.

Uzumcu said Russia would provide water tanks and other logistical supplies as well as the large-capacity trucks. It was also willing to consider further financial or material support for the multinational operation to remove the most deadly of Syria’s chemical weapons within one month, the OPCW said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow was ready to provide a naval escort for ships carrying chemical weapons being removed from Syria.

Uzumcu said that Denmark and Norway would provide ships and military escorts for transporting the Syrian chemicals at sea and for carrying chemicals to be disposed of at commercial facilities.

Finland had also offered chemical weapon “emergency-response” capabilities, and Italy was providing access to a port for trans-loading the priority chemicals from Danish and Norwegian vessels to the US ship.

The United States will also provide nearly 3,000 container drums to store the chemicals and GPS trackers to monitor their movement, as well as loading, transportation and decontamination equipment.

China is also joining the operation by providing surveillance cameras and 10 ambulances.

Uzumcu made an appeal for the international community to urgently provide more financial support for the program. The existing special fund stood at 9.8 million euros ($13.5 million), with an additional 750,000 euros pledged by Finland and South Korea, while Japan had promised to contribute nearly $15 million to be shared between the OPCW and the United Nations.

The operation to destroy Syria’s arsenal of more than 1,000 metric tons of weapons-grade chemicals is due to take place in two stages. The most dangerous weapons have to be removed from Syria by the end of December and destroyed at sea by April, with the rest slated for destruction by mid-2014.


Geneva II Conference to Prioritize Anti-Terrorism Fight in Syria, Mideast

MOSCOW - The fight against terrorism in Syria and the Middle East will be one of the key issues at the Geneva II Peace Conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the Russian Federation Council, upper house of parliament, on Wednesday, according to Itar Tass News Agency.

 “It seems to me the international community agrees that the fight against terrorism is one of the priority issues, which will be on the agenda of the Geneva II Peace Conference due to take place in Montreux on January 22, 2014,” the minister said.

Commenting on the recent attack on peaceful civilians in the Syrian town of Adra, he said, “Terrorist internationalism is putting down roots in Syria.”

 “Terrorist groups, which are not linked with Al Qaeda, have a serious impact on the situation. These groups are now posing the most serious threat in Syria and in the Middle East as a whole,” Lavrov said.

 “It would be very useful for the Syrian government and the opposition to unite in order to fight terrorism. The terrorist threat is the main obstacle to settle the situation in Syria,” he

Russia honors all effective contacts with Syria

All effective contracts between Russia and Syria, including those in the sphere of military-technical cooperation are being honored, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

 “In particular, this concerns the contracts for economic interaction between Russia and Syria,” Lavrov said.

Elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons runs at full speed

According to the Voice of Russia, Lavrov said that the process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons runs at full speed in compliance with the schedule.

"Now the second stage, which requires consolidation of many countries’ efforts, begins," he said, recalling that the main parameters of the second stage were approved at the meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Tuesday, Lavrov added.

Progress noticed on Syrian, Iranian tracks

In another context, Lavrov said that progress has been noticed on the Syrian and Iranian tracks based on common sense and collective political and diplomatic actions.

“Since the very beginning Russia has insisted the Syrian conflict be settled through dialogue with the respect of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the minister said.

Russia “seeks to contribute to the political settlement in Syria”, he said, adding “We’re working hard to convene the Geneva II Peace Conference. The unification of the Syrian opposition would facilitate this.”

“Our consistent position helped take decisions and launch the efforts aimed at putting chemical weapons in Syria under international control in order to eliminate them in the future,” Lavrov said.

He added that the closure of issues related to Iran’s nuclear program should lead to reconsidering the U.S. concept on European missile defense, Lavrov said.

“The resolution of Iran’s nuclear problem will allow us to ground the need to create missile defense in Europe,” the minister said.



Geneva 2 conference to kick off Jan 22 in Montreux – Brahimi

UN's special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi says the conference on Syrian peace will open on January 22 in a Swiss town of Montreux,according to Voice of Russia, RIA.

This is according to the UN’s tweet which has confirmed the exact place and date of the long-awaited peace talks.

On Friday, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin announced that the negotiations were to take place in a Swiss town nestled in a sheltered Lake Geneva bay, and not in Geneva, as it was anticipated.


Churkin: US ‘manipulated public opinion,’ ignored appeals for Syria chem attack evidence

New York- Russian UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin has announced that Russia have heard no evidence from its international partners in the international organization refuting reports uncovering that the armed terrorist groups in Syria had used chemical weapons, a matter that was affirmed by international experts.

According to Russia Today, Churkin said that while building up a case against the Syrian government, the US has relied on the sophisticated filtration of information and manipulation of public opinion through carefully weighted statements with no hard proof.

“Our requests for additional information which could prove the Syrian government alleged involvement in the use of chemical weapons were ignored by Washington,” Churkin added following a closed-door UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on two UN chemical weapons reports by Ake Sellstrom.

The sarin attacks near Aleppo on March 19 and in Ghouta on August 21 are the two most “alarming” incidents of the Syrian conflict, Churkin told reporters, adding that the story becomes “full of contradictions” if blame is placed on the Syrian government.

"Why would the Syrian government use chemical weapons on August 21?"Churkin asked."Is it to cross the red line drawn by Washington and invite a missile strike upon itself?  Why would the opposition use chemical weapons? It is exactly because of the red line and to provoke foreign military intervention in Syria," he said.

The August 21 attack was a provocation by the armed groups, Churkin stressed, noting that Sellstrom’s investigation got acquainted with the OPCW-certified (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) report. He added that the UN team did not refute the results found by Russian experts in the report.

At the time, the Syrian government immediately requested an international investigation of the March 19 incident, Churkin reminded, but then the United States, the United Kingdom and France tried to hinder the process of reaching facts.

H. Mustafa

Germany's Merkel voted in for third term

Angela Merkel is elected to a third term as chancellor in a vote in the German lower house of parliament on Tuesday, paving the way for her new "grand coalition" government to be sworn in and formally take power later in the day, according to the Voice of Russia.

 Merkel's conservatives scored their best result in over two decades in a German election on September 22 but were forced into lengthy coalition talks with the rival Social Democrats (SPD), whose members only approved the deal last weekend.

The vote in the Bundestag was a formality as the ruling parties hold an overwhelming majority of the seats. A total of 462 lawmakers backed Merkel for chancellor, with 150 voting against and 9 abstaining.

The new government faces a host of challenges, from bedding down European reforms aimed at shielding the bloc from future crises, to seeing through Merkel's costly switch from nuclear to renewable energy.

Merkel joins fellow conservatives Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl as the only post-war chancellors to have won three terms.

German state of Hesse agrees conservative-green coalition deal

The German state of Hesse's centre-right Christian Democrats and its environmentalist Green Party finalized a coalition agreement on Tuesday, just as the country's nationwide grand coalition government was being sworn in.

The deal marks the first time in Germany's history that the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left Greens have agreed to govern jointly in a larger state.

There has been one such coalition previously at a city-state level.

The two parties have been in coalition talks since November 22, two months after the regional election in the central German state took place.

The vote coincided with Germany's nationwide election.

Party leaders Volker Bouffier (CDU) and Tarek Al-Wazir (Green Party) are set to present the coalition agreement to their members on Wednesday.

The only other CDU-Green coalition to have existed in Germany came into force in the city-state of Hamburg in 2008, with the parties breaking off the alliance two years into the term.

Merkel is due to be sworn on Tuesday

Angela Merkel is due to be sworn on Tuesday for a rare third term as German chancellor, capping months of political uncertainty as she bartered with her rivals to help govern Europe's top economy.

H. Mustafa

Nelson Mandela laid to rest at his childhood village of Qunu

South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela received a tearful state funeral at his childhood village of Qunu on Sunday, followed by traditional burial attended by family and friends, according to the Voice of Russia.

A 21-gun salute and full military honour guard escorted Mandela's coffin to a marquee where 4,500 mourners said their final goodbyes.

His flag-draped casket was placed on cow skins, surrounded by 95 candles - each signifying a year of his extraordinary life.

"The person who lies here is South Africa's greatest son," said ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa in an opening address.

Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, who was seldom far from his bedside during his final months, looked on disconsolate, along with his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The leaders of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle also attended: George Bizos, Desmond Tutu and Ahmed Kathrada, whose voice broke with emotion as he delivered a eulogy for his old friend.

"I first met him 67 years ago," said Kathrada, who along with Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1963.

He recalled his fellow inmate as a powerful amateur boxer who could cope far better than others with the physical challenge of hard labour.

"What I saw in hospital was a man helpless and reduced to a shadow of himself," he said struggling not to break down.

"We can salute you as a fighter for freedom. Farewell my dear brother, my mentor, my leader."

"Now I've lost a brother, my life is in a void and I don't know who turn to."

His words left many in tears among the invited guests, whose ranks included foreign dignitaries and celebrities ranging from Britain's Prince Charles to US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.