US sending new aid package after 'Guaido's request'

By Safvan Allahverdi

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. administration on Friday announced a new humanitarian aid delivery to Venezuela at the request of opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido.

In a statement, Deputy Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, Robert Palladino called on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to allow new USAID — the U.S. Agency for Aid and Development — into the country to reach those in need.

"On February 16, the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Defense, in a cooperative effort, will deliver aid ready for distribution within Venezuela to Cucuta, Colombia," Palladino said.

"This assistance will address the greatest needs for the most vulnerable populations in Venezuela", the statement read, citing Palladino.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Tensions rose when Guaido declared himself acting president on Jan. 23, a move which was supported by the U.S. and many European and Latin American countries.

Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Bolivia, and Mexico have put their weight behind Maduro.

UPDATE – US not united on Syria withdrawal: Turkish president

             ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT</p>  <p>By Ahmet Salih Alacaci and Ali Murat Alhas </p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s president said Friday the Trump administration did not appear to portray a united stance on its withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria</p>  <p>In as televised interview, Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised a recent trilateral summit held in the Russian resort city of Sochi with the leaders of Russia and Iran, saying it was &quot;very productive and useful&quot;.</p>  <p>He said the next such summit on the Syrian conflict would be held in Turkey.</p>  <p>In addition, Erdogan reiterated the need for Washington to make good on its promise to evacuate the YPG/PYD/PKK terror group from northern Syria’s Manbij district west of the Euphrates River, stressing there has not yet been a step in this direction.</p>  <p>&quot;Manbij is actually not the place of these terror organizations,&quot; he said, adding the population there was 85-90 percent Arab.</p>  <p>&quot;We will do whatever it takes for our national security,&quot; he asserted, noting Ankara would continue to strive for finding mutual ground as long as Tehran and Moscow maintained their attitude.</p>  <p>In December, President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing all of its troops from Syria and said Daesh had been defeated in the country </p>  <p>Since then, however, no troops have been withdrawn, and the Pentagon confirmed last month that additional troops were being sent to protect American forces and equipment as they prepare to leave.</p>  <p>Syrian refugees in Turkey </p>  <p>Underlining Turkey’s efforts to resettle the 3.6 million Syrian refugees residing within the country’s borders, Erdogan said 310,000 Syrians had returned home and pointed out that $35 billion had been spent on the needs of refugees.</p>  <p>He complained that the European Union didn't fully keep its promise to support refugees in Turkey, saying it had promised a total of $6 billion.</p>  <p> &quot;What we have received is $1.75 billion. All talk, no action,&quot; he said.</p>  <p> Khashoggi murder</p>  <p>On the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Erdogan emphasized that the CIA had not yet 'thrown its weight' behind the issue, adding that Washington should press for an investigation. </p>  <p>Erdogan emphasized that Turkey had not yet revealed all the documents it possessed on Khashoggi’s death and Ankara was 'determined' to bring the issue before international courts.</p>  <p>Khashoggi was brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shortly after he entered the diplomatic facility on Oct. 2 last year. Riyadh initially denied any role in the killing but has since sought to blame his death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.</p>  <p>Macron and so-called Armenian genocide</p>  <p>Erdogan said French President Emmanuel Macron should learn some history before lecturing others about genocides.</p>  <p>&quot;There is no such thing as genocide in our history,&quot; he said, adding Macron should be careful before uttering such strong words. </p>  <p>Erdogan said France had been involved in numerous bloody massacres committed over the course of history.</p>  <p>&quot;Between 1872-1954, Vietnam. More than 500,000 Vietnamese were slaughtered by the French,&quot; he said. </p>  <p>He went on to say that France massacred scores of people in the revolts against its colonial presence in Algeria.</p>  <p>Turkey and EU</p>  <p>On Turkey's ascension to the European Union, Erdogan accused European countries of not being sincere with all the requisites and said they had another agenda.</p>  <p>&quot;There is only one reason they don't take us [into the EU]: because we are Muslims,&quot; he said, noting that even some former EU foreign ministers had said that.</p>  <p>In addition, Erdogan said some European countries were actually supporting terrorism against Turkey.</p>  <p>Terrorism</p>  <p>Erdogan slammed Washington for arming the YPG/PKK terror group, saying it had sent 23,000 trucks loaded with weapons to terrorists.</p>  <p>Recalling the U.S. promise to collect weapons back from the terror groups, he said the same words were once said by former president George W. Bush.</p>  <p>&quot;When the U.S. entered Iraq, Bush said they would collect the weapons while withdrawing,&quot; he said. &quot;But while fighting the terror groups there, we realized that the U.S. weapons were there.”

Ex-Top FBI official says he began probes of Trump

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said in remarks aired Thursday that he started obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations into U.S. President Donald Trump soon after the president ousted McCabe's boss, James Comey. </p>  <p>McCabe said he ordered the probes the day after Comey was fired during a meeting with the FBI team probing matters related to Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential race.</p>  <p>&quot;I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion, that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace,&quot; McCabe said in excerpts of a 60 Minutes interview set to air Sunday. </p>  <p>McCabe said he wanted to ensure that in the case of his removal from office whoever succeeded him as the top FBI official &quot;would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision.&quot;</p>  <p>Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed eight days after Comey was fired, a development Trump continues to blame on his since fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from matters involving Russia.</p>  <p>McCabe was fired last March from the bureau where he had served for more than two decades just a day before he could retire with a full pension. McCabe insists he was removed as a political attack from Trump. </p>  <p>Shortly after the 60 Minutes clip aired, the president lashed out, saying McCabe &quot;pretends to be a 'poor little Angel.’”</p>  <p>&quot;McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!&quot; he wrote on Twitter.  </p>  <p>The former acting FBI director is set to release a book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, which details his time in the bureau, next week. 

Turkey, Russia, Iran back Syria's territorial integrity

             By Sena Guler</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia expressed Thursday firm stance against &quot;separatist agendas&quot; in Syria.</p>  <p>“The presidents expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries,” read a joint statement released following the trilateral summit on Syria.</p>  <p>Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani met in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi for the fourth time to discuss the situation in Syria.</p>  <p>According to the statement the leaders also discussed the situation in northeastern Syria and “agreed to coordinate their activities to ensure security, safety and stability in this area including through existing agreements, while respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity&quot; of the war-torn country.</p>  <p>On the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Syria, the presidents said the move would strengthen stability and security in the region if Washington implemented the decision.

Turkey wants no new crisis to arise in Syria: Erdogan

By Diyar Guldogan

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey does not want new humanitarian crisis to arise in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

"We do not want a new humanitarian crisis and new tragedies to arise neither in Idlib no in other regions of Syria," Erdogan told a news conference with his Russian and Iranian counterparts following a trilateral summit on Syria in Russia's coastal city of Sochi.

Erdogan said Turkey will continue to do its part on Idlib deal. He also called on Syrian regime to obey cease-fire agreement.

"Hopes for political solution to Syrian crisis are sprouting as never before," he said.

Turkey's concern is to ensure Syria's territorial integrity and clear terror groups from Syria's Manbij, the president stressed.

He hoped that Syrian constitutional committee will be formed "as soon as possible", so Syrian people can determine their own future.

The president announced that the next round of the trilateral meeting between the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran will be held in Turkey in upcoming months.

Erdogan, Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani first met in Sochi in 2017.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are guarantor countries which brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana talks, which are running parallel to the Geneva talks.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

Putin: We must tackle terror hotbeds in Syria

                              By Elena Teslova </p>  <p>MOSCOW (AA) - Turkey, Russia, and Iran should consider steps to tackle the “terrorist hotbed” in Syria, said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts.</p>  <p>&quot;We need to agree how to ensure a permanent de-escalation in Idlib,” Putin told the opening of a trilateral summit in Sochi, Russia </p>  <p>“The cease-fire regime is in force in the province, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept the presence of terrorists in the area. Thus, I propose we consider concrete practical steps that Russia, Turkey, and Iran could take to completely and finally destroy the terrorist hotbed.&quot; </p>  <p>After a meeting in Sochi last September between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone -- in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited -- in Idlib.</p>  <p>The following month saw all heavy weapons withdrawn from the de-escalation zone by Syrian opposition and anti-regime groups.</p>  <p>But according to the Syrian White Helmets civil defense group, at least 30 people in Idlib were killed in January, including women and children, while another 180 were injured -- in Idlib, Hama and Latakia -- by regime drone attacks and artillery fire.</p>  <p>At Thursday’s summit, Putin said in addition to Idlib, the situation near the Euphrates and the issues of Syria's reconstruction and refugees’ repatriation are the most important right now.</p>  <p> He also urged that a planned committee to draw up a new Syrian constitution start its work as soon as possible.</p>  <p>Putin told how last month in Moscow he and Erdogan discussed the consequences of U.S. troops leaving Syria.</p>  <p>&quot;We agreed that the problems in [Syria’s] northeast should be solved with strict respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity of,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>Putin said Russian, Turkish and Iranian efforts sharply changed the humanitarian situation in Syria, as over the last six months, more than 130,000 Syrian refugees returned home and humanitarian aid is being delivered.</p>  <p>&quot;But about a million people still need help. We hope that the international community and the UN will play a more active role in this matter,&quot; he said.

  • Iran's Rouhani

For his part, Rouhani said that the issues of external intervention in Syria as well as the importance of liberating Syria from terror were top issues for the summit.

Stressing the need to preserve the country’s territorial integrity, he added that Washington "unfortunately" provided protection for terror groups within Syrian borders.

In addition, Rouhani underlined that it was critical that Syrian refugees are able to return to their home soil.

Erdogan, Putin, and Rouhani first gathered in Sochi to discuss the crisis in Syria in 2017.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are guarantor countries which brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana talks, which are running parallel to the Geneva talks.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

Turkey's Erdogan: Syrian people await good news from summit

             By Diyar Guldogan</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Syrian people await to hear good results of the trilateral summit on civil-war torn country among the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.</p>    <p>&quot;The Syrian people, who have been trying to survive under the shadow of weapons for the past eight years, are waiting to receive good news from us on a permanent political solution in Syria,&quot; Erdogan said at the fourth meeting of trilateral Syria summit in Russia's coastal city of Sochi.</p>    <p>Erdogan said Turkey has done its best for Syrian people since the start of war and provided $35 billion aid in every area.</p>    <p>&quot;We have resolutely preserved the spirit of Astana [peace process] despite all problems, dissidence and even some provocations,&quot; he added. </p>  <p>With his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Erdogan met to discuss the joint efforts, conducted on the ground and within the political process by the Astana platform to find a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict.