ADDS MORE QUOTES ON SYRIA, TURKEY, KHASHOGGI
By Elena Teslova
MOSCOW (AA) – The current situation, characterized by increasing military tensions, can lead to a nuclear war that will destroy the planet, the Russian president said on Thursday.
The world underestimates the graveness of possible developments of current events, said Vladimir Putin during an annual news conference that gathered over 2,000 journalists at the Moscow International Trade Center congress hall.
The U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and its intention to end the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty — which are pillars of the international arms control system — decrease the nuclear arms application threshold, and in turn, it can lead to a global nuclear catastrophe, Putin said.
"I hope mankind will have enough common sense not to drive to the extremities," he added.
Putin in this massive news conference is evaluating the main events of 2018, since he was reelected as president for the fourth term.
Speaking about recent developments in Syria, the Russian leader said the U.S. withdrawal of troops from the war-torn country is a possibility but there have been no concrete steps taken as yet.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared victory over Daesh in Syria on Wednesday and announced the withdrawal of troops within 60 to 100 days.
Putin said Washington promises to pull back its soldiers from Afghanistan every year but U.S. troops have remained in the country for 17 years.
He said Russia is satisfied with the developments on the Syrian crisis settlement.
Iran, Russia, and Turkey on Tuesday gave the UN a list of possible members of a committee to revise Syria's constitution.
The committee will be formed in late-2018 or early-2019 and will give a fresh push to the peace process, he said.
On Russian-Turkish relations, Putin said both countries are working for strengthening bilateral relations in different domains, including fight against terrorism and economy.
"Turkey pursues an independent international policy, we appreciate it very much, this creates predictability and stability of the relations. In this sense, the role of the Turkish president is great. We hope, this tendency will be continued under further leadership of Mr. [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan," he said.
Commenting on the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi case, Putin drew parallels with Russian ex-spy Sergey Skripal's poisoning in the U.K.
He said Khashoggi was killed and Skirpal is alive, yet all remains calm in the first case, while in the second a string of sanctions were imposed.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
After producing various contradictory explanations, Riyadh acknowledged he was killed inside the diplomatic building, blaming the act on a botched operation.
Relations between Russia and the U.K. have been tense since March when Skirpal and his daughter came under an alleged nerve agent attack in the southern English Salisbury city.
The British authorities alleged Russia was behind the attempted murder, a charge Moscow denies.
U.K. expelled 23 Russian diplomats — and 121 diplomats were expelled world-wide as a diplomatic crisis brewed.