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News, November 2015
French Air Strikes on Eastern Syria, Russian Air Strikes on Western Syria, Devastation, Death, and Destruction Continue
November 16, 2015
Warplanes targeted the countryside of Al-Raqqah and Hama
Al-Arabiya, SOHR, November 16, 2015
Warplanes believed to be for the international coalition carried out airstrikes on several places in the town of Ma’adan in the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah, no information about casualties.
Warplanes believed to be Russian carried out more raids in the vicinity of Morek town and the villages of M’aarkbeh and Lahaya in the northern countryside of Hama, while areas in the town of Al-Lataminah at the northern countryside were shelled by the regime forces, no information about injuries.
Obama vows to ‘redouble’ fight against ISIS, urges Russia to join effort
SOHR, November 16, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Sunday to step up efforts to eliminate Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and prevent more attacks like those in Paris, while urging Russia’s Vladimir Putin to focus on combating the jihadist group in Syria.
A White House official said Obama and Putin agreed during a 35-minute meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Turkey on the need for a political transition in Syria, saying events in Paris had made it all the more urgent.
The two-day summit brings Obama and fellow world leaders just 500 kilometers from Syria, whose 4-1/2-year conflict has transformed ISIS into a global security threat and spawned Europe’s largest migration flows since World War Two.
Obama described Friday’s killing of more than 120 people in Paris, claimed by the radical Sunni militant group, as an attack on the civilized world and said the United States would work with France to hunt down those responsible.
“The skies have been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris just a day and a half ago,” Obama said.
“We will redouble our efforts, working with other members of the coalition, to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and to eliminate Daesh as a force that can create so much pain and suffering for people in Paris, in Ankara, and in other parts of the globe,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
U.S.-led efforts to combat Islamic State were complicated when Russia joined the conflict a month and a half ago, targeting what the West says are mainly areas where foreign-backed fighters are battling Assad, Moscow’s ally, rather than ISIS.
The United States, Turkey and their allies want Assad out.
Obama huddled with Putin during a working lunch and the two agreed on the need for a Syrian-led transition including U.N.-mediated talks, the White House official said.
Putin and Obama talked “extensively”, Russian news agencies cited top Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov as saying.
“Strategic objectives relating to the fight against the Islamic State are, in principle, very similar, but there are differences on the tactics side,” he said.
Their meeting builds on progress in Vienna, where foreign ministers on Saturday outlined a plan for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, although differences over Assad’s role remain.
The Paris attacks again demonstrated how ISIS poses a threat far beyond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Washington already expects France to retaliate by taking on a larger role in the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign against ISIS.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.
Obama wants to coax other European and Middle Eastern countries into more tangible steps to show their military commitment. He met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, discussing the need to support the moderate Syrian opposition and the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.
Obama said he also discussed in a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan coordinating efforts to fortify the border with Syria, which ISIS has used to smuggle supplies and foreign fighters.
The coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris on Friday put Obama and other leaders of the world’s major economies under increased pressure to find common cause.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Washington itself has an appetite for much deeper involvement after already stepping up air strikes and committing small numbers of special operations troops to northern Syria to advise opposition forces in the fight against ISIS.
The Paris carnage, in which 129 people were killed in attacks on a concert hall, restaurants, bars and a sports stadium, also poses a major challenge for Europe, with populist leaders rushing to demand an end to an influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
In a diplomatic coup for Europe and for Turkey, the G20 leaders will agree that migration is a global problem that must be addressed in a coordinated way, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters, although it has yet to be accepted by all and is due to be published on Monday.
Europe and Turkey, the most heavily hit by the crisis, had been pushing for the G20 to recognize the issue as a global problem and help to deal with it financially, despite opposition from China, India and Russia. A million migrants from the Middle East and Africa are expected to come to Europe this year alone.
According to a separate draft statement, they also agreed to step up border controls and aviation security in the wake of the Paris attacks, which they condemned as “heinous.”
Obama, Putin agree on need for political transition, ceasefire in Syria
Al-Arabya, November 16, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the need for a Syria-led political transition, including U.N.-mediated talks, when they spoke at the G20 summit on Sunday, a White House official said.
In a 35 minute discussion on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Turkey, the two discussed efforts to find a solution to the conflict, which had been made more pressing by the attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, the official said.
“President Obama and President Putin agreed on the need for a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, which would be proceeded by U.N.-mediated negotiations between the Syrian opposition and regime as well a ceasefire,” the official said.
Obama welcomed efforts by all countries in confronting Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), noting the importance of Russia’s military efforts in Syria focusing on the group, the official said.
French warplanes strike IS group stronghold in Syria
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
French fighter jets launched their biggest raids in Syria to date targeting the Islamic State's stronghold in Raqqa just two days after the group claimed coordinated attacks in Paris that killed more than 129 people, the defence ministry said.
"The raid ... including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped," the statement said, adding that the mission had taken place this evening.
The operation, carried out in coordination with US forces, struck a command centre, recruitment centre for jihadists, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters, it said.
The air strikes were launched on the opening day of the G20 summit in Turkey where world leaders in a draft statement raised the alarm over an escalating international movement of "foreign terrorist fighters".
Heads of the Group of 20 top world economies said they would share intelligence, track border crossings and boost aviation security to prevent international travel by "terrorists," without identifying the Islamic State group or any other specific threat.
"We are concerned over the acute and growing flow of foreign terrorist fighters and the threat it poses for all states," the G20 chiefs said in a draft statement obtained by AFP a day ahead of its formal adoption at their meeting in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
"We are resolved to address this threat," they said.
Leaders said they were determined to counter violent extremism, recruitment and to prevent "terrorists" from exploiting technology, including the internet.
"The direct or indirect encouragement of terrorism, the incitement of terrorist acts and glorification of violence must be prevented," they added.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers gathered in Vienna over the weekend to discuss a new plan to end the war. The current proposal appears to be based largely on a Russian initiative and envisions negotiations between embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and opposition groups starting by January 1.
A more immediate option facing leaders was the possibility of France asking for help from its NATO allies. Only once in its 66-year-history - after 9/11 - has NATO's communal defense obligation been invoked.
Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said it was up to France whether to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter.
European Union leader Donald Tusk called on G-20 leaders to show "full determination" against terrorism and urged cooperation to prevent terror financing - a step that nations have already been pursuing for more than a year.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the response should be "robust, but always within the rule of law."
French air strike hits IS group oil facility in Syria
FRANCE 24 with AFP
The French army on Sunday bombed an oil supply centre held by the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on Monday.
"We intervened in Syria... yesterday evening with a strike on an oil supply centre near Deir Ezzor on the border between Iraq and Syria," Le Drian told journalists on the sidelines of a forum on African peace and security in Dakar, Senegal.
Earlier this month, French President François Hollande announced the deployment of the Charles de Gaulle, France's only aircraft carrier, in the fight against the IS group in Iraq and Syria. The French carrier had previously been deployed in the Persian Gulf from February to April this year, conducting between 15 and 20 flights per day, according to the French military.
France also has 12 jet fighters based in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan involved in the operations.
New defence ministry
The French president inaugurated a massive new defence ministry complex on the outskirts of Paris last week, complex with walls designed to withstand a missile strike and a highly secure operational room hidden underground.
France's new defence ministry building aims to bring together the army, air force and navy headquarters in order to make it easier to coordinate France's military operations abroad. About 9,300 military and civil staff who were previously dispersed around a dozen different sites are now based in the 4.2 billion euro building ($4.6 billion), dubbed the "French Pentagon."
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