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US, Russia agree on ceasefire in south Syria from Sunday, Lavrov says

The US and Russia have reached an agreement for a ceasefire in south-west Syria, according to officials.

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ceasefire in south Syria

Word of the ceasefire emerged as US President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit.

The deal marks a new level of involvement for the US in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war.

A separate deal to create “de-escalation zones” was brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, but not the US.

Follow-up talks this week in Kazakhstan to finalise a ceasefire in those zones failed to reach a deal.

The US and Russia have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war.

Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement, one official said.

The two US allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from the civil war spilling over the frontier.

Moscow has been supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Washington is backing rebels who have been fighting Assad. Both the US and Russia oppose the Islamic State group in Syria.

Previous ceasefires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it is unclear whether this deal will be any better.

Earlier in the week, Syria’s military said it was halting combat operations in the south of Syria for four days, in advance of a new round of Russia-sponsored talks in Astana. That move covered the southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida.

Syria’s government briefly extended that unilateral ceasefire, which is now set to expire on Saturday – a day before the US-Russian deal would take effect.

The new agreement will be open-ended, one US official said, describing it as part of broader discussions with Russia on trying to lower violence in the war-ravaged country.

Officials said the US and Russia were still working out the details as Mr Trump and Mr Putin concluded their more than two-hour meeting on Friday.

The US has been wary of letting Iran gain influence in Syria – a concern shared by Israel and Jordan, neither of which wants Iranian-aligned troops massing near their territories.

A US-brokered deal could help the Trump administration retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as Islamic State is routed from additional territory in Syria.

Though US and Russian officials had been discussing a potential deal for some time, it did not reach fruition until the run-up to Mr Trump’s meeting with Mr Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit, officials said.

– AP

Middle East

Russia to supply Syria with S-300 missile system

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Moscow, Sep 24 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Monday about his decision to strengthen Syria’s air defence, including providing it with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system.

“Both sides noted readiness for further joint efforts to achieve long-term normalization in Syria, restoration of its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” a Kremlin statement said, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will supply an S-300 air defence system and identification, friend or foe equipment to Syria within two weeks after its Il-20 surveillance plane was mistakenly downed by Syria’s S-200 system last week.

In areas adjacent to Syria over the Mediterranean, Russia will carry out radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, airborne radars and communications systems of combat aircraft attempting to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, Shoigu said.

The Russian Defence Ministry has said that the Il-20 plane with 15 servicemen on board was shot down by mistake on September 17 by a Syrian missile due to a simultaneous Israeli air strike that confused Syria’s S-200 air defence system.

The Israeli military rejected the accusation that its jets deliberately used the Il-20 as a shield and led to its downing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow’s decision to strengthen Syria’s air defence was made after week-long discussions between the leadership of the country and military experts.

He said that the deployment of the S-300 system in Syria does not target a third country.

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Abbas says to address UN assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians

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Mahmoud Abbas

Ramallah, Sep 16 : Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he will address the upcoming UN General Assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting he chaired for Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Xinhua reported.

“We will go to the United Nations to confront the world with the issues that our people are suffering,” said Abbas, who is scheduled to deliver a speech at the UN headquarters in New York on September 27.

The addressed issues include the Israeli decision to demolish Al-Khan Al-Ahmar Bedouin village east of Jerusalem, and the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the holy city, he added.

“We are consulting with our brothers in Jordan to form a unified position to go to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice on what is going on at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abbas noted.

The Palestinian President said the final decision will be made by the PLO central council after he returned from the UN assembly.

The United States and the Palestinians have almost severed ties since US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017.

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Iran to increase uranium enrichment if EU fails

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Iran President

Tehran, Sep 16 (IANS) Iran would increase uranium enrichment if the European Union (EU) fails to implement its obligations following the US withdrawal from the Iranian landmark nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.

“The Europeans and the other signatories must act in order to compensate for the effects of the US sanctions,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Press TV.

He downplayed the possibility of Iran’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, but cautioned the EU partners that Iran might act if they fail to secure Iran’s interests in the deal.

“Oil and banks” are the “litmus test,” he said, alluding to the EU pledges to help Tehran in the face of US re-imposition of sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and banking transactions.

European parties need to decide whether being ready to follow their words, Zarif said, adding that “they should also decide if they want to submit to US pressure.”

Iran and six world powers, namely Russia, Britain, China, France, the United States and Germany, struck a landmark agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw Washington from the deal on May 8 and re-impose sanctions, including oil embargo, on Iran.

Iran has held several rounds of talks with France, Britain and Germany to revive the blocking statute, a 1996 regulation that prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with foreign sanctions laws.

Iran has incessantly urged Europe to take “practical and tangible measures” to protect Iranian interests since the US pullout.

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