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Assad on Syria peace talks: ‘We’re ready to discuss anything, but who will be on other side?’

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The problem with the upcoming Syria peace talks is whether “the real opposition” will be represented, Syrian President Bashar Assad told French media, following a visit by French MPs to the liberated city of Aleppo.

Assad said that a Syrian government delegation is ready to leave for the Russian and Turkish-brokered negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, as soon as is necessary.

“We announced that our delegation to that conference is ready to go when they define… when they set the time of that conference. We are ready to negotiate everything, anything, it’s fully open, there’s no limit for those negotiations.”

However, the question remains over whom they are going to talk to, Assad added.

“But who’s going to be there from the other side? We don’t know yet. Is it going to be the real Syrian opposition – and when I say ‘real’ it means it has grassroots in Syria, not Saudi ones or French ones or British ones – it should be Syrian opposition to discuss Syrian issues. So, the viability or, let’s say, the success of that conference, will depend on that point,” the Syrian president told French media, as cited by the Sana news agency.

Assad was also asked if he would be prepared to relinquish the presidency, should it become necessary.

“My position is related to the constitution, and the constitution is very clear about the mechanism in which you can bring a president or get rid of a president. So, if they want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum,” the Syrian leader said.

“’If I feel that the Syrian people doesn’t want me [to be president], of course I wouldn’t be,” he concluded.

Asked about apparent shifts in power recently, both across the Atlantic and in Europe, Assad chose to remain cautious.

“We always hope that the next [US] administration [will] want to deal with the reality. [But] what we’ve learned in the last few years is that many officials would say something and do the opposite,” he said.

He added that the mainstream media had attempted to add fuel to the fire, although this had largely “failed in the West” and forced people to “look for the truth.”

“The truth was the main victim of the events in the Middle East, including Syria,” Assad added.

Nevertheless, he remained optimistic about the transition of power in the US.

“The Syrian problem is not isolated, it’s not only Syrian-Syrian; a major part of the Syrian conflict is regional and international. The simplest part that you can deal with is the Syrian-Syrian part, the regional and the international part depends mainly on the relations between the US and Russia.

“If there’s a genuine approach or initiative toward improving the relations between the United States and Russia, that will affect every problem in the world, including Syria. So yes, we think that’s positive,” Assad concluded.

Middle East

170 injured in fresh clashes in Palestine

The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return.

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Palestinians
File Pic of Palestinians protester

Gaza, May 5 (IANS) Almost 170 Palestinian protesters were injured on Friday in clashes with Israeli soldiers near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, an official said.

Ashraf al Qedra, a Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that 170 demonstrators were injured, sustaining gunshots, rubber bullet injuries and gas suffocation.

Eyewitnesses said after Friday prayers, hundreds headed to five different locations along the border. Israeli soldiers using loudspeakers warned the demonstrators, asking them to “Go home for your safety”.

The protestors rolled burning tires to within 500 meters of the fence.

The Israeli military said some 7,000 Palestinians were protesting along the border. When “violent riots” erupted in five locations, it said troops responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire.

Sallah Abdul Aati, one of the organizers of the rallies, said the protests will continue.

“The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return,” he said.

The protests have been held for six consecutive weeks. As Israel celebrates its 70th independence anniversary, the Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian refugees forced to leave their homes during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 be allowed to return.

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Middle East

Rouhani warns Trump against walking away from n-deal

I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly.

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Tehran, April 24 : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday warned his US counterpart Donald Trump that abandoning a nuclear deal that the Tehran government signed with world powers in 2015 would lead to “serious consequences”.

Speaking live on television, Rouhani said his government had kept its end of the deal and warned Trump not to tear up the agreement, which had also been signed by Russia, China, Germany, the UK and France.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Trump has said that unless the US’ European allies put right what he has described as “terrible flaws” in the deal by May 12, his government would re-establish economic sanctions on Iran, dealing the pact a major blow, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rouhani stressed that Iran was complying with the deal, as has been confirmed a dozen times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose Director General Yukiya Amano said in March that a possible failure of the agreement would be a great loss.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington in an attempt to try and persuade Trump not to walk away from the accord.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any US attempt to wreck the nuclear deal.

Iran has said it would ramp up its nuclear programme if the deal collapses.

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Middle East

Putin warns against further actions violating UN charter

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Vladimir Putin

Moscow, April 16 : Further actions violating the UN charter such as the recent US-led strikes on Syria will result in chaos in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over phone on Sunday.

The two leaders condemned Saturday’s airstrikes by the US and its allies on Syria and agreed that it would hinder the process of a political settlement in the war-torn country, according to a Kremlin statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It was stated that this illegal action seriously damages the prospects for a political settlement in Syria. Putin in particular stressed that if such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the statement read.

The US, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday, saying that it was in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian military. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the same day held an emergency meeting over the missile attack at Russia’s request but failed to approve a resolution condemning the bombardment.

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