All personnel withdrawn from Russian navy base in Syria – diplomat

Russia’s nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky navy sailors attend a greeting ceremony for the Russian official delegation at Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus. (RIA Novosti)

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister says all personnel had been evacuated from the navy resupply base in Tartus, Syria, adding that not a single Russian military serviceman remained in the country.

Mikhail Bogdanov made the announcement in an interview with the Al-Hayat newspaper. “Presently, the Russian Defense Ministry has not a single person stationed in Syria. The base does not have any strategic military importance,” the newspaper quoted the Russian official as saying.

Russian media have verified the statement and the business daily Vedomosti quoted an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry as saying that this was true as all military and civilian personnel had been evacuated from the Tartus base and there were no Russian military instructors working with the Syrian military forces. The source added that the withdrawal was prompted not only by the increased risks caused by the ongoing military conflict, but also by the fact that in the current conditions any incident involving Russian servicemen would likely have some unfavorable reaction from the international community.

Russia currently has a 16-ship flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea but none of them has called at the port of Tartus in recent months and there were no reports of such plans.

Mikhail Bogdanov is also Russian President’s plenipotentiary for Middle East issues and he headed the Russian delegation at this week’s talks between Russia, US and UN on preparations of the major international conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva-2.

Following the Tuesday round of talks another Russian diplomat – Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov – told reporters that the sides failed to agree on a number of questions and the terms of the future conference were not yet agreed. In particular, the participants of the talks varied on Iran’s possible role in the future conference.

Moscow supports Tehran’s participation in talks as it would make a positive contribution to the possible political settlement in Syria, the Russian official noted.

Besides, the participation of some of the Syrian opposition groups remains under question though the US side said they were working on this, Gatilov added.

The Russian diplomat said that the supplies of weapons to the Syrian opposition were not discussed at Tuesday’s talks, though he noted that this issue “was not creating positive political environment for the start of the political process.”

Gatilov said that Russia still hoped the plan to call the international conference would end in success. In particular, the issue will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US State Secretary John Kerry, due soon within the framework of the ASEAN conference in Brunei.

Source: RT

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‘Baku grants Israel use of its air bases’

Jerusalem Post

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Azerbaijan has granted Israel access to airbases in its territory along Iran’s northern border for potential use in a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, a report published Wednesday in Foreign Policy magazine quoted senior US officials as saying.

“The Israelis have bought an airfield,” an official said, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”

Even if Israel doesn’t use the fields for a direct air strike on Iran, Azerbaijan could still prove useful for Jerusalem’s interests in the region. The bases could be used as a jumping point for IDF search-and-rescue units, the report quoted a US intelligence official as saying.

Azerbeijan’s defense ministry denied the report, AFP reported Thursday.

According to AFP, defense ministry spokesman Teymur Abdullayev said, “This information is absurd and groundless.”

The Foreign Policy report by journalist Mark Perry, said the Obama administration believes the Jerusalem-Baku relationship is raising the risk of an Israeli strike on Iran. Senior US officials have said that Israel’s military expansion into Azerbaijan is complicating US efforts to defuse Israeli-Iranian tensions. “We’re watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we’re not happy about it,” one official said.

The relationship between Israel and the predominantly Muslim country on Iran’s northern border is believed to be robust. The Foreign Policy report quoted a 1995 article in The Jerusalem Post as saying bilateral relations started in 1994 and have blossomed ever since. “Strauss ice cream, cell phones produced by Motorola’s Israeli division, Maccabi beer, and other Israeli imports are ubiquitous [in Azerbaijan],” the Jerusalem Post article stated.

The unlikely bilateral relationship has taken center stage in the media this year.

In January, Azeri authorities implicated an Iranian citizen in a plot to kill Jewish teachers at aJewish school in Baku.

A report published last month in The Times of London said that Azerbaijan is teeming with Mossad agents
working to collect intelligence on the Islamic Republic of Iran, quoting an unnamed agent as saying that Baku was “ground zero for intelligence work.”

Later in the month, Israeli officials confirmed a $1.6 billion defense deal with Baku that will see Jerusalem supplying the former Soviet state with unmanned aerial vehicles and missile defense systems.

Earlier this month, Azerbaijani police arrested 22 people, including one Iranian citizen, suspected of plotting attacks against US and Israeli targets across the country. Baku tied the plot to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

[Editor’s note: these plots like
the ones towards Israeli interests in India and in the USA were obvious FalseFlags attempts made by the Mossad in order to blame the Iranians. The same bombs, that were used to kill an Iranian nuclear physicist in Teheran earlier this year, were used in India.]