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Tillerson faces tough talks in Moscow amid increased tensions.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow this week will be an early test of whether the Trump administration can use any momentum generated by a missile attack on a Syrian air base to craft and execute a strategy to end the Syrian war. Even before Trump ordered last week’s strike in retaliation for a nerve gas attack, Tillerson’s visit was certain to be dominated by thorny issues, including Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, an apparent violation of an important arms control treaty, and seeing what cooperation, if any, is possible in the fight against Islamic State. Now, Tillerson, a former oil executive with no diplomatic experience, is charged with avoiding a major U.S. confrontation with Russia while exacting some concessions from Moscow. Those include getting rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s remaining chemical weapons and pressing Assad to negotiate Syria’s future.

Turkish mills buy EU, Black Sea wheat to replace Russian imports.

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Turkish flour mills have covered their short-term needs by purchasing several hundred thousand tons of wheat from EU and Black Sea countries, replacing Russian supplies blocked by a change to import rules, millers and traders said on April 5. Turkey has effectively halted purchases from Russia of wheat, maize (corn) and sunflower seeds by removing Russian items from a duty-free import scheme from March 15. The Turkish move meant Russian supplies facing a prohibitive 130 percent duty, though Ankara has denied banning imports from Russia. Moscow has said the tariffs are hindering relations.

 

Russian Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel stands with Russia after deadly metro bombing.

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Russians in St. Petersburg on Tuesday paid tribute with flowers and candles to the victims of a deadly blast at a metro station a day earlier, which killed 14 people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended his condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “the people of Israel stand with Russia on this difficult day”. In an action of solidarity with the victims of the bombing, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality lit up the facade of city hall with the colors of both the Russian and the Israeli flags. Nethanyau said that for him this gesture is a really beautiful thing. Also  Nir Sadan, a resident of Tel Aviv said that “Here in Israel we know this kind of problem and I feel sorry for Russia that this terrible thing happened”. Russia has been on alert against attacks on its soil in reprisal for its military intervention in Syria, where Moscow’s forces have been supporting troops loyal to President Bashar Assad. The Islamic State group has repeatedly threatened revenge attacks.

 

Iran good neighbour, reliable partner: Putin.

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The meeting between Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was held on Tuesday evening as part of Rouhani’s two-day visit to Moscow. Putin, while deeming Iran as a good neighbour and trustable partner, said the two sides have held diplomatic ties for the past 500 years. “Tehran and Moscow have hold partnership in all areas which entails international affairs as well as resolving extremely complicated issues in political and economic sectors”, he continued. Also at the meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said cooperation between Russia and the Islamic Republic is not directed against third countries, but is aimed at strengthening stability in the region.

Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China’s president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them. Tillerson intends to miss what would have been his first meeting of the 28 NATO allies on April 5-6 in Brussels so that he can attend President Donald Trump’s expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security, two former U.S. officials said.

All kinds of military cooperation with Russia in Syria: President Erdoğan said.

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Ankara and Moscow are conducting all kinds of military cooperation in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a press conference March 10 with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.The president also voiced determination in maintaining cooperation regarding humanitarian aid in the war-torn country. Meanwhile, Putin also said he appreciated the cooperation of intelligence and military units. Erdoğan also reiterated that the territorial integrity of Syria should not be put in jeopardy, adding that Ankara has no toleration for the splitting of Syria and Iraq.Putin said Syria’s territorial integrity was an “irreplaceable” element, which is “vital” for the solution of the crisis. He added the situation in Syria was “complicated”.

 

 

Russian security firm recruited fighters to fight alongside Haftar's forces in east Liby

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The owner of a Russian firm RSB-group, Oleg Krinitsyn, said a force of several armed private security contractors from Russia operated until last month in a part of Libya that is under the control of the leader of Dignity Operation, Khalifa Haftar. This sustain couldn’t exist without the agreement of Moscow, which see in Haftar one way to reach the Libyan stability after the 6 years of anarchy. But Krinistyn told Reuter that his firm has left out Libya last February (e.d : so before Oil crescent’s attacks). Moreover, relations between Haftar and Russia has increased, last year.  Haftar and his supporters from the Libyan political parties have been trying for a long while to presuade Russia into conducting a military action in Libya analogous to that it is doing in Syria.

 

Jon Huntsman’s strange odyssey to become Donald Trump’s man in Moscow

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Donald Trump has blocked several people who opposed him during the campaign from getting jobs in his administration. So why has he reportedly chosen Jon Huntsman to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia? The 56-year-old has earned a reputation as someone who ingratiates himself with his patron of the moment but whose long-term loyalty cannot be counted on. His critics — including some who have worked with him — complain privately that he’s always thinking about how he can climb the next step up the ladder. He was ambssador in China for president Barack Obama and with this engagement, assuming he’s confirmed by the senate, he will become a very high-profile figure. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said overnight that he hopes Huntsman will help Trump improve relations.

Trump's 'bromance' with Russia's Putin appears to be cooling

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Relations between Putin’s Russia and America Trump are at historic lows, in fact, due to continuous and repeated scandals regarding the contacts between his electoral campain managers and members of his administration with Russian agents and diplomats had forced President Trump  to dissociate, at least temporarily, from his Russian colleague. In Moscow they did not take well the new American line, especially the appointment of Gen. McMaster, known for his anti-Russian positions, as Advisor for National Security and the American irritation for some military operations carried out by the Russians in Syria have helped to cool relations. According to some european officials, remained anonymous, the current US policy is much closer to European interests than those of Russians, especially the statements made by US Ambassador at the UN about the Russian annexation of the Crimea, that Americans still do not recognize, bode well for the detractors of Trump-Putin axis.

Attorney General Sessions met the Russian Ambassador Kislyak at least twice last year, democratic lawmakers clamoring for the resignation

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Some of the senior members of the Justice Department admitted that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions met the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice last year, ie before being appointed head of the Department of Justice. Democratic lawmakers clamoring for the resignation because Sessions, while not violating the Logan Act, however  has lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearing, in fact, Sessions has denied any involvement with people linked to Russia during the months in which he was a consultant of the Trump campaign. The Attorney General defended himself stating that at the time of fact was a member of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate and due of his position came into contact with several ambassadors including the Russian one, the position has been refuted as 20 of the 26 Committee members said they had not encountered anyone, meetings with Kislyak would still be suspicious because it seems that one of the two meetings will be held in the office of Sessions on Capitol Hill and have regarded the opinion that the American Intelligence had made on cyber attacks carried out by Moscow against the Democrats.

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