Russia on Tuesday accused the West of seeking to “distort” the agreement reached last weekend in Geneva on a plan for a political transition to end the escalating conflict in Syria.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hailed the accord based on proposals by envoy Kofi Annan as an “important step” but said that Western capitals had already read more into the final statement than what was written on paper, AFP reported.
“Unfortunately... some Western participants have started in their public statements to distort the agreements that were reached” in Geneva, he told reporters at a news conference with his Vietnamese counterpart.
“These (Geneva) agreements are not there to be interpreted. They mean exactly what is said in the communiqué and we need to follow the agreements that were made,” Lavrov added.
“Our (Russian) position is honest and we are not trying to make it seem more than what is written in the text.”
His comments came just after Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters on Tuesday that a “shift” in positions by Russia and its diplomatic ally China at the Geneva talks should not be underestimated.
World powers on Saturday agreed a plan for a transition in Syria which did not make an explicit call for President Bashar Al-Assad to quit power. However the West swiftly made clear it saw no role for Assad in a unity government.
“The consensus that was reached in Geneva was a very important step in the consolidation in the positions of all members of the international community... towards solving this problem peacefully and refusing to use military force from whatever side,” Lavrov said.
But he complained that the Syrian opposition had also come out with statements after the meeting that “the decisions of Geneva are unacceptable.”
Russia has been under sustained pressure from the West to publicly call for Assad to quit amid a spiraling conflict that has already claimed over 15,000 lives but Moscow has rejected imposing any outside solution.
German Spy Chief Quits In Neo-Nazi Scandal
The head of Germany’s domestic spy agency resigned after acknowledging that the service had destroyed subpoenaed files connected to a neo-Nazi cell believed responsible for the murders of at least 10 people, most of them immigrants, over several years.
Agency head Heinz Fromm’s decision to step down, announced on Monday, came days before he is scheduled to testify to a parliamentary inquiry about the destruction of the files. Fromm had held the position since 2000, had previously resisted pressure to resign.
The high-profile resignation reflects growing dismay in Berlin about the activities of the decades-old intelligence agency following its failure to detect the suspected neo-Nazi murderers, as well as the revelations that it had put several left-wing members of the German parliament under surveillance. Fromm was “surprised and devastated by the misconduct of his agency staff” and “deeply concerned about the loss in trust,” said Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, whose ministry oversees the agency.
Friedrich said he had ordered a complete investigation of the events to restore confidence in the intelligence service.
The agency’s apparent failure to uncover the link between immigrant murders and Germany’s neo-Nazi community—which the agency says has been infiltrated with German agents—has prompted criticism that the service played down the threat posed by antiforeigner elements.
Authorities are now exploring whether members of the agency were supportive of the neo-Nazi extremists or sought to protect them in any way.
The files in question are connected to the recruitment of informants in Germany’s neo-Nazi community, including alleged members of the group believed to be behind the immigrant killings, which calls itself the National Socialist Union, or NSU. The agency is attempting to reconstruct the destroyed information from copies held in related files, according to a spokeswoman.
Germany’s domestic intelligence service, a postwar creation known as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or Verfassungsschutz, is broadly comparable to the intelligence wing of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Formed in 1950, its original purpose was to prevent former Nazis and communists from undermining West Germany’s new democracy. The agency’s mission broadened in the decades that followed, and it has focused in recent years on monitoring extremists as well as Germany’s neo-Nazi movement.
Until late last year, German intelligence officials said they believed the immigrant murders, which were committed across the country from 2000 to 2007, were retribution killings within Germany’s Turkish community. Then, German police uncovered extensive evidence that a pair of neo-Nazis had carried out the killings. An official investigation found that the two, who committed suicide in November while on the run from police, were able to escape detection for so long because officials never suspected a neo-Nazi link to the killings.
The agency’s problems have been compounded by revelations that it monitored members of Germany’s political left, including prominent members of parliament, for several years.
Discovery of the program shocked many officials across Germany’s political establishment. More than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, not even Germany’s staunchest conservative politicians consider leftist elements a threat to democracy.
Medvedev’s Kuril Visit Angers Tokyo
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Medvedev headed a major delegation to Kunashir including Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, Russia’s Far East supremo Viktor Ishaev and Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun.
He was expected to inspect a range of industrial and social objects as well as talking to local residents, Russian state media said.
Tensions surrounding the Kurils reached new heights after Medvedev’s first 2010 visit that even sparked fears of a conflict. Russia in February 2011 announced it would boost military defenses on the islands.
However the dispute slackened somewhat after the earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident that shook Japan in March 2011 and prompted expressions of solidarity in Russia.
In an apparently unrelated incident, a Russian soldier killed two accountants and then himself on Kunashir only hours before Medvedev’s visit.
The soldier, named as Egor Bessalov, late Monday shot dead two accountants and badly wounded another at a branch of the Russian central bank he was supposed to be guarding on the Pacific island of Kunashir, military investigators said.
“After committing these acts, Bessalov shot himself,” the investigators said in a statement.
Philippines May Ask forUS Spy Planes
The Philippines may ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the South China Sea to help monitor the disputed waters, President Benigno Aquino said on Monday, a move that could worsen tensions with its giant neighbor China.
According to Reuters, the two countries only recently stepped back from a months-long standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, a horseshoe shaped reef near the Philippines in waters they both claim - the latest round of naval brinkmanship over the resource-rich sea.
The United States has stressed it is neutral in the long-running maritime dispute, despite offering to help boost the Philippines’ decrepit military forces. China has warned that “external forces” should not get involved.
“We might be requesting overflights on that,” Aquino told Reuters in an interview, referring to US P3C Orion planes. “We don’t have aircraft with those capabilities.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment on the Orion aircraft, but said Washington has long assisted Manila, a formal security treaty ally.
“As part of our longstanding military cooperation, the United States supports the Philippines in enhancing its maritime domain awareness,” she told a news briefing.
“We are talking about helping the Philippines be aware of what is going on and supporting our ally in defense of its own security,” added Nuland.
Last month, Aquino pulled out a lightly armed coast guard ship and a fisheries boat due to bad weather around the Scarborough Shoal, a group of rock formations about 140 miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon. The South China Sea is potentially the biggest military flashpoint in Asia, and tensions have risen since the United States adopted a policy last year to reinforce its influence in the region.
Afghan Suicide Car Bomb Kills 7
A suicide car bomb attack outside a university in southern Afghanistan on Monday killed at least seven civilians and wounded more than 20, officials said.
The attack happened around 7:00 pm (1430 GMT) in Kandahar city in front of Kandahar University, around two kilometers (a mile) from a major US military base, provincial police chief General Abdul Razaq told AFP.
“This evening a suicide car bomb exploded near Kandahar university, killing seven civilians and wounding 23 others.” he said.
The provincial governor’s spokesman Jawed Faisal confirmed the death toll and said most of the victims were Afghans working at the US base, which was once the compound of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
“A Toyota Corolla packed with explosives rammed into a minivan full of workers coming from the base,” Faisal told AFP.
Kandahar was the birthplace of the extremist Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until it was deposed by a US-led invasion in 2001.
It remains one of the hotbeds of the decade-long insurgency against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
NATO and Afghan forces are the main targets for the militants, whose tactics frequently include suicide attacks, but local civilians working for the coalition are also targeted.
Two weeks ago Taliban attackers stormed two Afghan-NATO bases in Kandahar province, killing four police officers.
The bulk of NATO’s 130,000 troops in Afghanistan are due leave by the end of 2014, handing security responsibilities over to local forces, and there have been concerns the pullout may lead to a return to the chaotic violence of the 1990s.