Russia’s Returns to Mideast Upends Status Quo

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama to meet with Putin at U.N General Assembly, discuss Ukraine and Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fierce critic of Bashar al-Assad, on Thursday suggested for the first time that the Syrian president could have a role to play in a future political transition. “The process could possibly be without Assad, or the transitional process could be with him,” Erdogan told reporters after Eid prayers in Istanbul, when asked about a possible solution to Syria’s four-year civil war.

President Obama will meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the latter’s trip in New York next week to address the United Nations General Assembly, the White House has confirmed.Vladimir Putin has called Sir Elton John and offered to meet after prank-callers impersonating the Russian president fooled the singer earlier this month. Putin asked John on Thursday not to be offended by the hoax call and said he’s ready to meet him to discuss any subject, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during the president’s visit to the Rostov region in southern Russia.

Obama considers the top item on the agenda to be the conflict in Ukraine. “President Putin requested the meeting and I think at this point, considering the significant concerns I’ve just raised, I think it makes sense for President Obama to sit down with his counterpart and see if he can get some greater clarity about Russia’s intentions inside Ukraine,” Mr. The diplomat “at first had some difficulty in explaining that he was the real Russian ambassador and that the real president of our country wants to speak” to John, Peskov said. John was coming off a trip lobbying for LGBT rights in Ukraine, during which he told the BBC that he wanted to meet with Putin to talk about his “isolating and prejudiced” and “ridiculous” attitude towards gay people. John was caught out last week by two Russian comedians who tricked him into believing that Peskov had called from the Kremlin and connected him to Putin after the singer said he’d like to discuss Russia’s “ridiculous” stance on gay rights with the president.

That’s when Vladimir “Vovan” Krasnov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, a pair of hoaxers known for their prank calls to Russian and Ukrainian celebrities, admitted they had been the ones who phoned John. According to the pranksters, who spoke to a Russian newspaper, John “immediately believed in the reality of the conversation with the people that we said we were.” They said the singer concluded the discussion in very good spirits: “Thank you, you’ve made my day.

This day and conversation were the most remarkable and beautiful in my life!” The real Putin was apparently apologetic. “I know that those phone pranksters fooled you. The Kremlin’s actions in the region have drawn concern from U.S. leaders who are anxious that Moscow will lend troops to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. “Given the situations in Ukraine and Syria, despite our profound differences with Moscow, the president believes that it would be irresponsible not to test whether we can make progress through high-level engagement with the Russians,” a senior administration official said, NPR reported. “In particular, our European partners have underscored the importance of a unified message about the necessity of fully implementing the Minsk agreements,” the official said, referring to the 2014 agreement between Russia, Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic to halt the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine. “President Obama will take advantage of this meeting to discuss Ukraine, and he will be focused on ensuring Moscow lives up to the Minsk commitments.

The faux Putin suggested John come to Moscow in November and participate in a gay pride parade, despite the fact that police and counter-protesters have broken up annual gay pride events there for the past decade. The news of Putin’s potential meeting with John nearly overshadowed the announcement on Thursday that he would meet the US president, Barack Obama, at the UN next week. Putin signed a law in 2013 that banned the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”, ushering in a wave of harassment and violence against gay people, including teenagers. John has campaigned for gay rights in Russia and in 2014 published an open letter condemning the gay propaganda law and offering to introduce Putin to members of the LGBT community.

This week, a judge reportedly ordered Deti-404, an online support group for LGBT teenagers, to be shut down, although the site was still accessible on Thursday.

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