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Erdogan says after Biden talks no Turkey-U.S. problems unsolvable

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sounded upbeat after his first face-to-face talks with Joe Biden, though he announced no major breakthroughs in the awkward relationship between the two allies, at odds over Russian weapons, Syria, Libya and other issues.

Erdogan characterised his talks with the new U.S. president on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels as “productive and sincere”.

“We think that there are no issues within U.S.-Turkey ties, and that areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than problems,” he said.

Turkey, with the alliance’s second-largest military, has angered its allies in the Western military alliance by buying Russian surface-to-air missiles and intervening in wars in Syria and Libya. It is also in a stand-off with Greece and Cyprus over territory in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As president, Biden has adopted a cooler tone than predecessor Donald Trump towards Erdogan. Biden quickly recognised the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide — a position that angers Turkey — and stepped up criticism of Turkey’s human rights record.

Washington has already removed Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet program and imposed sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

One area where Erdogan hoped to showcase a central Turkish role in NATO is Afghanistan, where Ankara has offered to guard and operate Kabul airport after U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in coming weeks. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey would play a key role but no decision was made at the Monday summit.

At the start of the main leaders’ session at NATO, Biden spoke to Erdogan at length in a small group before they took their seats.

Later in the day, the two leaders and their top aides sat mostly silently on opposite sides of a conference table, ignoring questions shouted to them by journalists briefly invited into the room.

Erdogan also met French President Emmanuel Macron. Ankara and Paris have been at odds over Syria, Libya, and Turkish criticism of the fight against what Macron calls Islamist separatism, among other issues.

“President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference afterwards.

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US whistleblower Edward Snowden gets a Russian passport

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2022)

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the scale of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), has sworn an oath of allegiance to Russia and received a Russian passport, TASS reported on Friday.

“Yes, he got [a passport], he took the oath,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, told the state news agency TASS.

“This is still a criminal investigative matter,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, referring any questions about the report on Snowden to the US Department of Justice, which declined to comment.

US authorities have for years wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges, Reuters reported.

President Vladimir Putin in September granted Russian citizenship to Snowden, who fled the United States after leaking secret files that revealed the extensive eavesdropping activities of the United States and its allies, read the report.

“I’m in Russia because the White House intentionally canceled my passport to trap me here. They downed the President of Bolivia’s diplomatic aircraft to prevent me from leaving, and continue to interfere with my freedom of movement to this day,” Snowden, 39, said on Twitter on Friday, referring to events from 2013.

Snowden was referring an incident in July 2013, when Bolivia complained that its presidential jet carrying Evo Morales from Russia to Bolivia had been rerouted and forced to land in Austria over suspicion that Snowden was on board.

According to Reuters defenders of Snowden hail him as a modern-day dissident for exposing the extent of US spying and alleged violation of privacy. Opponents say he is a traitor who endangered lives by exposing the secret methods that Western spies use to listen in on hostile states and militants.

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Estonia to buy US rocket artillery system in $200 million deal

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2022)

NATO member and Russia’s neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced US rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest arms procurement project ever, defense officials said Saturday.

A deal signed Friday for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is worth more than $200 million and includes equipment such as ammunition and rockets as well as training, Associated Press reported.

The package includes HIMARS rockets with ranges of 70-300 kilometers, the Estonian Center Defense Investment said in a statement. Lockheed Martin Corp. is expected to make the first deliveries in 2024.

“The HIMARS multiple rocket launchers are a new important step in the development of Estonia’s defense capabilities,” Lt. Col. Kaarel Mäesalu, head of the capability development department at the Estonian Defense Forces. “This makes it possible to decisively influence the enemy even before coming into contact with our infantry units.”

Estonia’s Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania either have or are currently in the process of acquiring their own HIMARS.

Washington has provided Ukraine with the rocket launchers during Russia’s invasion of the country. The Estonian Defense Ministry said the HIMARS systems “have helped to destroy Russian military ammunition warehouses, transport nodes, and command and control centers with pinpoint accuracy beyond the range of the howitzers Ukraine has been using.”

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Ukraine, Russia swap 50 prisoners in PoW exchange

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)

Russia’s Defence Ministry and the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration said the two countries had swapped 50 service personnel on Thursday in the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides, Reuters reported.

Earlier on Thursday, the top Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s partly-occupied Donetsk region said Moscow and Kyiv would each hand over 50 prisoners of war.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, reported the release of 50 “protectors of Ukraine” and said that the exchanges of prisoners of war would continue “until the liberation of the last Ukrainian”.

“The defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal have returned, also those captured … in the battles in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia directions,” Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia said it would fly its released prisoners to Moscow for medical checks and rehabilitation, read the report.

Yermak also said an unspecified number of Ukrainian prisoners of war who were released on Thursday had been kept in the Olenivka detention centre.

According to Reuters dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists in the eastern frontline town of Olenivka, near Donetsk, were killed in an attack in July.

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