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Vladimir Putin’s Israeli Excursion

The Russian President visited Israel in a 24 hour trip, with over 300 people in his delegation in tow. Talks between Russian and Israeli officials focused on what you might expect: Iran and Syria. The Israeli press is highlighting a suggestion that there may be some growing daylight between Moscow and Syria’s Assad. The key word is “not obligated.” ““Russian President Vladimir Putin told senior Israeli officials on Monday that while he was not obligated to Syrian President Bashar Assad, he urged the West to think carefully before trying to remove him, a senior Israeli diplomatic sources said on Monday. ‘We asked Putin for Russia to work more actively to preserve stability in Syria, to prevent biological and chemical weapons from falling into the hands of Hezbollah or other terror groups,’ the source said. ‘Putin said that he is not obligated to Assad, but that Russia and Syria have strategic relations.’ Russia has to date expressed support for the Assad regime, despite the bloodbath the regime is conducting against his citizens.” (Haaretz http://bit.ly/KJw8lT)

Turkey Gets Belligerent

Following a NATO meeting on the downing of a Turkish plane by the Syrian military, the Turkish government warned Syria that it would greet any perceived hostile action near its border with decisive force. “In Ankara, Mr. Erdogan said Turkey had revised its military rules of engagement toward Syria. ‘Every military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria in a manner that constitutes a security risk or danger would be considered as a threat and would be treated as a military target,” he said in a speech to lawmakers attended by Arab diplomats. ‘From here, we warn the Syrian regime not to make any mistakes, not to test Turkey’s decisiveness and wisdom,” Mr. Erdogan said. ‘If there is anyone who could not understand this up until today, we would and will prove in the most clear and determined way that Turkey cannot be challenged,’ he said.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/LyyPqb)

Fighting Resumes in Eastern DRC

As the UN and others discuss and debate whether or not Rwanda is supporting the mutinous M23 rebel movement in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, fighting has resumed on the ground after a week of relative calms. “The armed forces (FARDC) ‘are starting to attack us with heavy weaponry on a hill close to Mbuzi”, one of the three hills where the mutineers have set up strongholds, said Lieutenant-Colonel Vianney Kazarama, spokesman for the deserters, who have formed a March 23 Movement (M23). Before returning fire, ‘we are waiting, we are going to talk to partners. We’re informing MONUSCO (the UN mission in DR Congo) to tell them that the FARDC should cease attacks to give a chance’ to young people to take their high school graduation exams in “serenity”, Kazarama added. High school exams begun Monday throughout the whole of the vast central African country. The government announced that it had taken steps to enable young people in the Rutshuru territory, where the fighting began more than a month ago, to take the exams in spite of the clashes. (AFP http://bit.ly/KzOYHp)

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