Speaking after talks with Putin outside Berlin on Saturday, Merkel said the focus should rather be on averting a Syrian army operation to retake the militant-held province of Idlib.
Her retort came after the Russian leader underlined the need for assistance to rebuild Syria and ensure that refugees could safely return to their homeland.
"We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict," he said. "By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to."
The Russian president also put the number of refugees in Turkey at three million while Jordan and Lebanon each host one million refugees.
The refugees, he noted, are "potentially a huge burden on Europe, so it is better to do everything possible so that they can return home.”
Putin emphasized that Syria's basic services such as water supplies and health care should be properly restored.
The German chancellor, however, showed reluctance to financially engage in the Syria reconstruction process and stressed that the priority in Syria was "to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe," particularly in Idlib.
Germany is a member of the US-led coalition which has been bombarding Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The aerial assaults have killed many civilians and destroyed Syria's infrastructure.
The Syrian army is preparing for a major military campaign in Idlib Province, the last remaining militant stronghold, after liberating much of the country's south near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from the grip of Takfiri terrorists.
Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said last September that the US, Britain, and their allies would not support Syria's reconstruction as long as President Bashar al-Assad remained in power.
In April, US State Department's Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield confirmed that Washington had no plans to provide Syria with any support for reconstruction.
"The United States does not believe that any reconstruction assistance should go to any areas under the control of the Assad regime," he said.
On Friday, the US cut its $230 million funding for the so-called Syria stabilization projects which have mostly gone to militants in the past, but vowed to remain active in its anti-Damascus bid in the country.
With more than 85 percent of Syria having returned to the government fold, Merkel said she had discussed with Putin the issue of constitutional reforms in Syria.
During their Saturday meeting, the two sides also exchanged views on the Ukraine conflict as well as the issue of Iran and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that no agreements had been reached in Merkel-Putin meeting, but it had simply been intended to "check the watches" after the Sochi event.
Reports said Ahmad Issa Habib, who was in charge of the Syrian army’s Palestine department, had been shot in the head in the village of Ba'arin.
There were contradictory reports on whether the unknown assailants had targeted the victim in his car or at his home.
Israel’s Army Radio quoted Syrian opposition sources as saying that Habib was “responsible for the struggle against Israel.”
Damascus is yet to comment on the assassination reports.
On April 4, Aziz Azbar, the head of the Syrian Scientific Research and Studies Center in the Hama city of Masyaf, was assassinated in a car bombing.
A senior official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency told The New York Times that Mossad had a hand in the targeted killing.
The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said his agency had been informed of the operation, and that Mossad had been tracking Azbar for a long time.
Some reports said the killing of the scientist was part of Israel’s campaign of aggression aimed at preventing Syria from rehabilitating its defense capabilities when the crisis in the Arab country comes to an end.
Israel frequently attacks military targets inside Syria in an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats against Syrian government forces.
The regime has also been providing weapons to anti-Damascus militants as well as medical treatment to Takfiri elements wounded in Syria.
The militants stormed the village of Mailari in the Guzamala region of Borno State in trucks, firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Abatcha Umar, a local villager who survived the attack, said he had seen 19 dead bodies, including that of his own brother.
The locals had tipped off the Nigerian troops in the nearby town of Gudumbali about the presence of terrorists around the village, but no action was taken, he said.
An aid worker at a camp that received the survivors, and who declined to be identified, put the death toll at 63. The aid worker said hundreds of people from villages in the area had fled to the camp for the displaced in Monguno.
Attacks of this sort in the area are usually attributed to Boko Haram and other Daesh affiliates operating in northeastern Nigeria.
The latest attack is a blow to the government’s efforts to eliminate the Daesh-inspired militancy in the country.
In recent months, the military has suffered its heaviest defeats in years, commanders have been repeatedly replaced, and soldiers belonging to special forces have mutinied against their commanders over the dire conditions.
The militancy has left at least 20,000 people dead and made over 2.6 million others homeless since 2009.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, came to power in 2015 on a platform of stamping out Boko Haram. But despite losing swathes of territory, the group continues to stage attacks targeting both civilians and military targets.
The bridge was closed following clashes between Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
The two checkpoints on the bridge are reportedly controlled by both Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, each side in charge of its own one.
Iraqi Commander of Federal Police headquarters Shaker Quinn said that the timing for cargo vehicles to use the road will be set separately from other vehicles.
Yemeni military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity on Sunday, told Yemen’s al-Masirah television network that Saudi warplanes struck two fishing boats in waters off the Seven Brothers Islands, also known as the Sawabi Islands or Seba Islands, in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, killing 13 people and injuring four others.
The sources added that another four Yemeni fishermen remained unaccounted for.
Later in the day, scores of Saudi troopers and Saudi-backed Yemeni militiamen loyal to the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, were killed and injured as Yemeni army troops, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, made territorial advances in the Hayran district of the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah.
Moreover, Yemeni troopers and their allies shot and killed five Saudi mercenaries at the al-Alab border crossing of the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Asir.
Some 15,000 Yemenis have been killed and thousands more injured since the onset of the Saudi-led aggression on Yemen in March 2015.
The United Nations says a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.
A high-ranking UN aid official has warned against the “catastrophic” living conditions in Yemen, stating there is a growing risk of famine and cholera there.
“The conflict has escalated since November, driving an estimated 100,000 people from their homes,” John Ging, UN director of aid operations, told the UN Security Council on February 27.
The deal was reached on Sunday, following a meeting between Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Ammar Hakim, the leader of the Iraqi National Wisdom Movement, and members of the al-Watanyah party.
"We agreed today to form a core for an alliance seeking to form a parliamentary alliance that can form the government. We have decided at this meeting to open up to our other partners to contribute together in the formation of this (largest) alliance," read a statement released following the talks.
The statement further noted that the alliance was being formed in the interest of the nation.
The announcement was made several hours after Iraq's Supreme Court ratified the outcome of the contested May 12 parliamentary elections in the country, giving the victor, Sadr and his coalition, a constitutional deadline of 90 days to form a government.
The parliament ordered a recount of the votes in June after a government report accused the electoral commission of ignoring widespread violations.
Days later, a huge fire destroyed a building that housed ballot boxes from the vote. Iraqi officials, including Abadi, said the fire was an attempt to harm Iraqi democracy.
The recount went ahead as planned and showed little difference from the initial results, giving Sadr a central role in forming the country's next government.
Sadr’s coalition, Sa'iroun, held 54 seats in the 329-seat parliament. Abadi, whose coalition, the Victory Alliance, had won only 42 seats to become third, formed an alliance with Sa'iroun in the aftermath of the election.
Iraqi lawmakers now have three months to form the new government. To do that, they need to hold their first session and elect a new speaker. From that point, they will have one month to elect a president.
The president will ask the largest bloc in the parliament to elect a prime minister who will form a government.
This is the fourth poll of its kind since the 2003 US invasion, which led to a sharp rise in sectarian tensions and ensuing terror-related violence in Iraq.
The next prime minister will face the huge task of rebuilding a country shattered by the war against Daesh and the US invasion.
Head of the Committee for the Commemoration of the carnage, Moin al-Kazemi, said in a statement that Iraqi judicial officials passed the ruling on 14 convicts on Sunday, urging the officials to carry out the sentences as soon as possible.
On June 12, 2014, Daesh terrorists killed around 1,700 Iraqi air force cadets after kidnapping them from Camp Speicher, a former US base. There were reportedly around 4,000 unarmed cadets in the camp when it came under attack by Daesh militants.
Following the abductions, the attackers took the victims to the complex of presidential palaces and killed them. The terrorists also threw some of the bodies into a river.
The massacre was filmed by Daesh and broadcast on social media.
An investigation committee later revealed that 57 members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party aided Takfiri Daesh terrorists in the massacre.
On August 21, 2016, Iraqi judiciary officials hanged 36 men convicted of involvement in the carnage.
Tikrit was recaptured from Daesh in March 2015. During clean-up operations in the northern part of the city, Iraqi forces found the location of the 2014 carnage.
On June 30, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, pledged to hunt down Daesh militants across Iraq after a series of attacks and abductions carried out by the terrorist group.
“We will chase the remaining cells of terrorism in their hideouts and we will kill them, we will chase them everywhere, in the mountains and the desert,” Abadi said.
Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the Arab country on December 9, 2017.
On July 10 that year, the Iraqi prime minister had formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.
In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.
Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.
Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.
"We received tons of Palestinian mail because of the intolerance of the occupation authorities who refused to bring it through Jordan and as it is stamped for the Palestinian postal destination," Hussein Sawafta, the director general of the Palestinian post service, told reporters Sunday.
Postal workers in the West Bank city of Jericho sorted through scores of mail sacks that Israeli authorities had finally allowed to enter the city through the border with Jordan.
The Palestinian ministry of telecommunications posted photos of the letters on its Facebook page, showing large piles of letter bags in a room as employees worked on them.
Ramadan Ghazawy, a Palestinian postal official, said even after many years of delay, the Israeli side had done a poor job of classifying the mail.
"After eight years it didn't come categorized as it is supposed to be, with lists and categorized. We got it all mixed."
From toys to wheelchairs
Family photographs and personal letters as well as medicine were among the delayed packages. Other shipments also included children’s toys to wheelchairs for the disabled.
The letters were kept in Jordan since 2010 because Israel refused to let any sort of direct transfer to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said.
Any letter or package that is addressed for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, undergoes Israeli security inspection first.
Israeli authorities claimed that this was not going to happen in future as moves were under way to implement a 2016 agreement that allows direct international mail flow to the West Bank.
However, Palestinian telecommunications minister Allam Mousa said Israel was delaying the agreement’s implementation and still blocked mail directly through Jordan, and therefore violating international resolutions.
"A team was formed from across the city (Jericho) to deliver (the mail) to the people as soon as possible," said Sawafta.
Ghazawy said delivering the mails was going to be difficult and even impossible in some cases due to the damage the boxes and the envelopes had sustained over these years, while the addresses on others had worn off.
"There are toys for kids. Maybe they were one year old when those gifts were sent. Now they are eight," Ghazawy said.
While the Trump administration is winding up international tensions across the globe with its penchant for slapping sanctions and tariffs on other nations, the breakthrough development over the Caspian Sea points to how multilateral accord can be achieved, and peace between countries maintained.
For over 20 years, the seashore nations of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia have been locked in dispute over territorial rights governing the Caspian – the world’s largest inland body of water.
But last Sunday, the leaders of the five countries signed a landmark legal convention which formulates a compromise on sharing the benefits – and responsibilities – of the sea’s rich resources.
Addressing the other leaders in the Kazakh port city of Aktau, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the agreement as “epoch-making”, saying it would pave the way for greater cooperation and prosperity among the Central Asian neighbors.
Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani told delegates: “Our region could be an example of stability, friendship and a good neighborhood.”
At the heart of the erstwhile dispute was how to legally define the Caspian. Was it a sea or a lake? That definitional difference meant different governing laws could be applied, with implications for how the five littoral nations would share the resources of that vast waterway – an area (370,000 square km) which is bigger than that of Germany and many other European states. With huge oil and gas reserves, as well as lucrative fishing resources, the division of the Caspian has always been a fraught subject.
What has been agreed now is an innovative compromise between the stakeholder nations. The surface water is to be treated as an international sea which means freedom of navigation for the five peripheral countries to any of the shores. But the seabed is defined as if it were dry land, allowing for the distribution of constituent zones on an equitable basis.
The precise formula for sharing the area has reportedly yet to be established, requiring follow-up meetings between foreign ministers. But the main outcome so far is the five neighbors have come up with an amicable, workable solution.
“Reaching this consensus on the status of the sea was a difficult process,” said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. “It required a lot of effort… but now we have goodwill.”
Up until the fall of the Soviet Union, the Caspian was shared by just two jurisdictions – that of the USSR and Iran. With the independence of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan that led to more competing claims.
The hydrocarbon resources under the seabed are immense, estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. With proven reserves of 50 billion barrels of oil that puts the region ahead of the United States or Nigeria. In addition, there are natural gas fields reckoned to be equivalent in size to those of Saudi Arabia.
Commendably, the littoral nations have come up with a mutual accord to allocate the resources, recognizing the sovereignty of each. That means for Russia, it is obliged to accede to a trans-Caspian pipeline between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan which could compete with its market share for fuel exports to Europe.
On the other hand, Russia’s total naval access to the Caspian gives it crucial security defense. Russian warships used the Caspian as a launching area for its Kalibr cruise missiles during the war in Syria in support of the Assad government against Western-backed militants.
As Putin also pointed out during the signing ceremony in Aktau, the Caspian is a vital security area for Central Asia, straddling Afghanistan and the Middle East. For Russia, securing its Caucasus region from encroaching terror threats is paramount.
Significantly, too, the Caspian Sea deal categorically excludes any external military power from gaining a foothold. Un
And the public at large start a malicious rumor circuit. Which, in turn is taken over by the MSM, so that their lies are pushing in open doors. The war drums start beating. The populace wants foreign imposed order, they want blood and ‘regime change’. The consensus for war has once more worked. And the blood may flow. Instigated by outside forces, such as the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and USAID, which train and fund nationals clandestinely in-and outside the country where eventually they have to operate. They are commandeered by Washington and other western powers and act so as to blame the “non-obedient” governments, whose regime must be changed. They constitute part of the Fifth Column.
A Fifth Column is a group of people, who undermine the government of a country in support of the enemy. They can be both covert and open. The term Fifth Column originates from the Spanish Civil War, when in October 1936 nationalist rebel General Mola initiated the coup d’état against the legitimate Republican Government. This marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. General Mola besieged Madrid with four “columns” of troops and claimed he had a “Fifth Column”, hiding inside the city. The term was henceforth used for infiltrated enemies within a legitimate government. Mola, the mastermind behind the coup died in a 1937 plane crash, and General Francisco Franco became Spain’s dictator for the next almost 40 years. He prevailed over the Republican resistance thanks to Hitler’s and Mussolini’s air support.
Now what’s the true story behind the violence-plagued Nicaragua and Venezuela, and the treacherous new Moreno government in Ecuador?
Take Nicaragua – it all started with the Board of Directors of the Nicaragua Social Security Institute (INSS) on 16 April 2018 approving an IMF-imposed social security reform, modified and then supported by President Ortega. The reform maintained social security at its current level, but would increasing employer contributions by 3.5% to pension and health funds, while only slightly increasing worker contributions by 0.75% and shifting 5% of pensioners’ cash transfer into their healthcare fund. These reforms triggered the coup attempt initiated by the business lobby and backed by the Nicaraguan oligarchy.
Student protests were already ongoing in different university cities in connection with university elections. These protests were re-directed against the Ortega government with the help of US-funded NGOs and the Catholic Church, an ally of the wealthy in most of Latin America. Some of the students involved in ‘re-directing’ the protests were brought to the US for training by the Freedom House, a long-time associate of the CIA. USAID announced an additional US$ 1.5 million to build opposition to the Ortega Government. These funds along with financing from the NED will be channeled to NGOs to support anti-government protests.
Summarizing, in the course of the weeks following the coup, violence increased leaving a total of more than 300 dead by early August. Even though Ortega reversed the pension measures, unrests continued, now demanding the resignation of the President and Vice-President, his wife Rosario Murillo Zambrana. Daniel Ortega, a Sandinista and former guerilla leader, was first elected President in 1985. It is clear that the US and the dark forces behind the empire were preparing Fifth Column-type groups to intervene and take advantage of any social upheaval in the country to bring about regime change. What could have and would have been contained, continued as US inspired violent protests eventually aiming at the overthrow of Ortega’s government. That would bring Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua – and Panama – in line with US policies. Will Washington succeed?
On Venezuela – In mid-June 2018, I was privileged to be invit