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‘Putin is very important’ – Trump knows Russia holds the keys to a Syrian peace

The US president understands the value of cooperation with Moscow – though few of his advisors seem to

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(Strategic Culture Foundation) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump agreed a joint statement on Syria on November 10 that said they saw no military solution to the conflict and a political one was needed to handle the crisis. The leaders informally met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese resort of Danang. The statement on Syria had been coordinated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. There is a wide range of issues to discuss but the parties concentrated on the burning problem of crucial importance where progress can be achieved to serve the interests of both.

With Islamic State driven out from the territories it held, greater attention is turning to the prospects of peaceful settlement. The parties agreed to continue joint efforts to fight Islamic State and confirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. They will “maintain open military channels of communication” to ensure the safety of forces on both sides.

True, the jihadist group has been pushed out of its main strongholds in Syria in recent months by a combination of offensives involving the Syrian army and the US-backed Kurds-dominated coalition. It has just lost Abu Kamal – its last stronghold in Syria. Great progress has been achieved recently but the end of the war is still far away, actually, much farther than it seems. The conflict is smouldering but it can flare up any time.

The Syrian government forces have regained control over wide swaths of Syria in large part thanks to the Russian Aerospace Forces. But more than 40 percent of the country remains outside of the regime’s control, including the areas where most of its oil fields are located. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have no wish to  leave the land they have captured from Islamic State, including the Arab-populated city of Raqqa. The areas outside of President Assad’s control include big chunks of northern Syria, as well as Deir al-Zour province in the east and Daraa in the south.

Clashes continue to spark across the country. A political process has not yet started. The international community is divided on the ways to achieve peaceful settlement. De-escalation zones encompass areas limited in size. The opposition is heterogeneous with sponsors of different groups pursuing their own objectives.

The Syrian National Dialogue Congress, initially scheduled on Nov.18, has been postponed. Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan are to meet in Sochi on November 13 to discuss the prospects of the initiative. Turkey raises objections over the participation of the Kurdish Democratic Union in the event. On October 31, the Russian Foreign Ministry said about invitations to 33 organizations to participate in the Congress. The UN-brokered Geneva process also hits snags on the way. It is actually stalled now.

The US, the UK, France and Germany raise the issue of chemical weapons allegedly used by the Assad regime to complicate the negotiation process.

With no urban areas held, Islamic State has “sleeping cells” to fight a guerilla war. For instance, the jihadists did not offer stiff resistance at Abu Kamal and left the town but they did not vanish. They can be bombed and shot at but munitions and bullets cannot destroy their ideology. No permanent defeat of IS is achievable without local communities countering the radicals and the ideas they spread. An international effort is the best way to address the root causes that bring about the rise of the terrorism.

Under the circumstances, Russia-US contacts are a crucial factor in finding a solution to the problem. Dialogue and compromises of all actors involved is the only way to move ahead. It’s not de-confliction and territory control only. The time has come to discuss the details of sending international aid to alleviate the suffering of civilian population. Who exactly will be responsible for distributing aid among communities and how is the process going to be controlled? This question is coming to the fore. Rebuilding trust, protecting people, supplying humanitarian aid and maintaining ceasefire are the tasks to tackle.

Syria is the place where Russian and US forces could clash as a result of an incident. It has been successfully avoided. De-confliction efforts have been by and large effective up to now. Coordination of nation building measures is indispensable and the presidents realize that. Despite geopolitical tension and mutual distrust, Russia and the United States are working together in some areas where their coordination is directly critical to global security.

Asked on November 2 about the prospects of meeting the Russian president at the APEC summit in Vietnam President Trump said “Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.”

Syria was wisely chosen as an issue to be addressed at the APEC summit because it provides an opportunity to limit the damage in Russian-American relations. Like it or not, Russia is too important to make a dialogue imperative. The US president appears to realize this fact.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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