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Russia Sees Trump More Committed to Fighting Terror Than Obama

Image: Russia Sees Trump More Committed to Fighting Terror Than Obama

 (AP)

Friday, 09 Dec 2016 11:48 AM

Russia reached out to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, calling him a better ally in fighting terrorism than Barack Obama.

The Kremlin isn’t waiting out the final six weeks of the Obama presidency and sees future relations with the U.S. as dependent on the “balance of our vested national interests,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday in Hamburg. He suggested that a Trump administration will align more closely with Russian objectives.

“The commitment to fighting terrorism has been expressed much more clearly than the concrete actions of the Obama administration,” Lavrov told reporters at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the German city.

Trump made overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail, calling for an alliance with the Kremlin to fight Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and hinting at easing sanctions against Russia. Putin has framed his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a campaign against terrorism.

Lavrov, who held talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting, expressed optimism about reaching a deal with the U.S. that could end the Syrian government’s Russian-backed bombardment of Aleppo. U.S. and Russian diplomats and military experts will meet in Geneva on Saturday to thrash out a deal as forces backing Assad tighten their grip on the rebel stronghold.

Russia-Turkey

Lavrov described the proposed deal as allowing anti-Assad militants under siege in eastern Aleppo to leave the city with their weapons, either to the Turkish border or to rebel-controlled Idlib southwest of Aleppo. He questioned whether the Obama administration had leverage over the rebel faction and said Turkey might be a more promising interlocutor.

“Maybe this channel of cooperation will be more productive than the one with the Americans,” Lavrov said.

Kerry said Thursday he was “hopeful” a breakthrough could be reached. He’ll attend a meeting of European and Arab allies on Saturday in Paris to discuss Syria.

Western powers are pressing Moscow to use its influence over its Syrian ally to push for an immediate cease-fire that allows humanitarian access to eastern Aleppo and a return to a political process. Lavrov said Syrian military operations had been suspended Thursday to allow some 8,000 civilians to escape, though such a truce couldn’t be confirmed.

Syria’s six-year-old war, which has killed about 300,000 people and displaced millions, dominated discussions on the sidelines of the conference in Germany. Several hundred thousand civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo.

Aerial Bombing

Russian-backed air strikes have propelled Syrian forces and their allies deeper into rebel-held sections of the city, Syria’s former commercial capital, where they’ve seized 70 percent of territory once controlled by opposition fighters. The U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Canada issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the assault and singling out Russia for preventing humanitarian access.

Capturing Aleppo, once Syria’s biggest city, would hand Assad control of all major urban centers, marking a turning point in the war. Russia’s military intervention in September 2015 averted the Syrian leadership’s collapse and allowed Assad’s forces to decisively push back rebel forces.

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Russia reached out to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, calling him a better ally in fighting terrorism than Barack Obama.
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