Vladimir Putin called Elton John. No, really. The Russians said so.

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Diplomats: US won’t negotiate on Russia’s UN draft on Syria.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Diplomats say the United States has refused to negotiate over a draft statement that Russia had hoped the Security Council would approve to bolster its position on Syria ahead of a major gathering of world leaders.Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet US leader Barack Obama during his visit to the UN in New York on Monday, as the US frets about a military buildup by Moscow in Syria. A draft of Russia’s council statement, obtained by The Associated Press, urges countries to fight extremist groups “in coordination with the governments of the affected states.” That language can be seen as a reference to Syria’s government, which Russia supports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to Russian news wires that the meeting will go ahead after the two leaders address the United Nations General Assembly.

Washington and its EU allies have urged Moscow to explain its military buildup in its longtime ally Syria, which has been reported to include airport facilities and bases, as well as planes and tank-landing ships. It recently has ferried weapons, troops and supplies to an airport near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia in what the U.S. sees as preparations for setting up an air base there. The last time Putin and Obama were face to face was a series of brief encounters last November at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.

The White House said Monday’s meeting was arranged at Putin’s request and that despite deep differences with Moscow, Obama felt it would be irresponsible not to assess whether progress could be made on the Ukraine and Syria crises. Observers expect the Russian leader to call for stronger U.N.-sanctioned global action against IS and possibly announce some military moves in his speech on Monday.

Putin appears to see the rise of the IS as both a major potential threat to Russia and a common cause that could help restore ties with the West, ravaged by the Ukrainian crisis. While the Russian deployment to Syria couldn’t be concealed, with giant military cargo planes and navy transport vessels shuttling back and forth for weeks to ferry troops, weapons and supplies, Moscow’s plans remain unclear.

Asked if the Kremlin could send troops to fight IS, Putin answered that “we are looking at various options.” His spokesman said Moscow would consider Syria’s request for Russian troops to help combat the IS if Damascus were to ask. — Will Russia limit itself to providing weapons, training and advice to the Syrians as it has done before, or will it send its soldiers into actual combat?

Defense Secretary Ash Carter had a 50-minute phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, the first such military-to-military discussion between the two countries in more than a year. Israel acted similarly, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Moscow this week to agree with Putin on a coordination mechanism to avoid any possible confrontation between Israeli and Russian forces in Syria. “Russia wants to switch the attention away from Donbass (eastern Ukraine) to Syria, where, as Putin has been saying all the time, core Russian and U.S. interests, and European interests, are very similar,” Trenin said. And even if Moscow and Washington find common ground on Syria, Kremlin hopes that the U.S. and its allies will eventually lose interest in Ukraine and become more accommodating to Moscow’s interests seem illusory. But even a limited Russian military action would anger Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states, which would see it as an effort to prop up Assad, whom they have vowed to unseat.

IS already has threatened to strike back at Russia, which has fought two wars with separatists in Chechnya and has seen numerous deadly terror attacks in the past by Islamic militants. Possible Russian military casualties in Syria could push the Kremlin to respond in an even more forceful way, creating the risks of escalation. “There is a risk of being sucked deeper into it, even though no one wants that,” said Lukyanov. There already have been reports that a group of Russian soldiers refused to go to Syria, citing lack of clear orders and no guarantees about benefits for their families if they were wounded or killed.

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