Russia's Putin oversees hypersonic missile test near Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday oversaw military exercises from a naval vessel in the Black Sea near Crimea, including the test launch of a hypersonic air-launched Kinzhal missile, the Kremlin said. © Thomson Reuters Russian anti-submarine corvette Muromets fires during the joint drills of the Northern and Black Sea fleets, attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the Black Sea, off the coast of Crimea January 9, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin jokingly suggested that President Donald Trump should visit Syria during a candid moment with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who appeared to approve of hosting the U.S. leader.
The remarks are in footage that has recently surfaced in Russian-language media from Putin's, where he met Assad at the Russian military headquarters in Damascus before touring a number of religious and cultural sites for Eastern Orthodox Christmas. At one stop, the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, the two leaders could be seen on camera laughing alongside Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch.
Reports: Unidentified planes strike targets in eastern Syria
Unidentified planes struck targets in Syria near the border with Iraq on Friday, reports said, triggering “a huge explosion” amid soaring tensions in the region between the U.S. and Iran. © Provided by Associated Press Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, center, visit the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Putin has traveled to Syria to meet with President Bashar Assad, a key Iranian ally. The rare visit Tuesday comes amid soaring tensions between Iran and the United States following the U.S.
"If Trump arrives along this road, he will be a good man," Assad said, to which Putin laughed before replying, "He will change for the better."
After a brief pause, the Russian leader added, "Invite him, he will come." Assad laughed and responded, "I will tell him."
Though previous presidents have met with Assad, and his father before him, the United States has sought to oust the leader since 2011, when mass demonstrations and a government crackdown turned into a civil war in which the U.S. armed and trained insurgents. Washington's priorities later shifted to battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but the Trump administration to this day rejects the legitimacy of Assad's rule.
Shortly after Trump won the 2016 presidential race, Assad called him a "natural ally" in the fight against terrorism, but months later the U.S. leader ordered the first U.S. airstrikes against the Syrian government in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in April 2017. He did so again, this time with backing from France and the United Kingdom, almost exactly a year later in response to another suspected chemical attack.
Merkel, Putin discuss Middle East flashpoints at Kremlin meeting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday for talks set to focus on flashpoints in the Middle East. Merkel and Putin shook hands at the start of the meeting which the German leader said would cover topics including turmoil in Libya and the Syria conflict as well as Ukraine's war with pro-Russian separatists.
While both strikes were limited in nature, Trump and other U.S. officials have continued to threaten further military action, in addition to existing economic sanctions, against Assad and his administration. The U.S. also maintains in Syria up to 600 troops that are.
The dynamics of Syria's multisided war have continued to evolve, however, and America's main ally since 2015 has been the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly Kurdish militia opposed by Turkey but viewed with neutrality by the Syrian government. Also in 2015, Russia joined Iran and its allies in backing Assad.
After U.S. forces repositioned themselves to, the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government made a deal under the auspices of Russia to halt an invasion by Turkey. Though Turkey is also opposed to Assad, it has maintained trilateral peace talks with Moscow and Tehran, and Turkey's intelligence chief met Monday with his Syrian counterpart for the first time in years.
Putin proposes giving parliament power to choose Russia's PM
President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he wanted to give parliament the power to choose Russia's prime minister along with other responsibilities, but said he would like to keep Russia's strong presidential system in place. The comments, at Putin's state of the nation address, come as observers watch for clues as to how he might reform the political system before 2024 when his current presidential term ends and the constitution requires him to step down.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not openly traveled to Damascus or met with Assad since 2011, when unrest there began. Putin's latest trip to Syria was only his second, with his first happening back in December 2017. A month earlier, Putin hosted his Syrian counterpart in Russia.
Trump visited U.S.-led coalition areas of operation in Iraq in Christmas 2018 and traveled to meet U.S. troops in Afghanistan last Thanksgiving, but he has never visited Syria.
In Photos: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemorations .
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