For perhaps first time since declaring ‘West Jerusalem’ Israel’s capital last year, Moscow refers to half of city as Israel’s capital in formal statement
In an usual statement referring to part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Russia on Friday praised “West Jerusalem” for not being drawn into what it said was a hysterical anti-Russian campaign following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Great Britain.
“The Embassy notes with concern attempts undertaken by the government of the United Kingdom and supported by some other foreign nations and a number of media outlets, to draw Israel into [a] political and propagandistic campaign, which was unleashed by London under the false pretext of Russia’s alleged involvement” in the poisoning incident, a statement put out by the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv read.
On Thursday the Foreign Ministry issued a brief statement saying that if “views with gravity” the event that took place in Great Britain and “condemns it vigorously.”
“We hope that the international community will cooperate in order to avoid such further events” the statement read. Britain had called on its allies to condemn the chemical toxin attack. The two sentence statement did not specifically mention Russia.
Last April, eight months before US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that it “views west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.” Although Israel would have liked Moscow to simply recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital, and not divide the city, it marked the first time that any country recognized any part of Jerusalem as its capital.
The Russian statement said that it reaffirms Moscow’s commitment to the “UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.”
The statement constituted a significant shift in Moscow’s policy, which until then maintained that Jerusalem should eventually be under a permanent international regime.
The embassy’s statement of Friday appeared to be one of the first times that Moscow, in an official statement, has referred to “West Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital.
In December, Russia — along with most of the rest of the world — blasted Trump for his Jerusalem declaration.
The Greek energy company has said that it will consider dual listing on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), Globesreports.
Greek energy company Energean has raised £330 million ($460 million) in an IPO on the London Stock Exchange. The company said that the main use of the proceeds will go toward the development of the Karish and Tanin Israeli offshore gas fields. The money was raised at a company value of £695 million ($968 million) and Energean will trade under the ENOG ticker. Energean has said that it will consider dual listing on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE).
Energean CEO Mathios Rigas said, “The proceeds of this primary raise will be used to deliver production from our flagship development project offshore Israel, Karish and Tanin, bringing competitive gas to the burgeoning Israeli market. With the project financing in place, the EPCIC contract with TechnipFMC agreed, and gas supply contracts for over 4 BCM per year underpinning our cashflow expectations on the project, this equity financing completes another key milestone that allows us to progress with FID. We are confident that our ability to acquire, de-risk and develop projects of significant scale can deliver a flow of new opportunities in the region and attractive returns for our shareholders.”
Earlier this month, Energean signed a $1.275 billion financing deal for the development of Israel’s Tanin and Karish offshore natural gas fields. The financing was led by Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI), which will provide $375 million while Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale, and Natixis will each provide $300 million.
Energean acquired the Karish and Tanin reservoirs after the natural gas plan was approved by the government requiring Tamar and Leviathan partners Delek Drilling LP(TASE: DEDR.L) and Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) to sell their stakes in the fields. The Greek company has since signed deals to sell gas to Israeli companies at around $4 per Btu (British thermal unit), 33% less than the $6 per Btu that Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE: ELEC.B22) is paying for gas from Tamar.
Vienna, March 17, IRNA – European countries are willing to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and to lift sanctions, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said Friday.
Araqchi made the remarks at Vienna Airport in reaction to unverified reports by certain western media suggesting likely sanctions against Iran.
What Europeans stressed in bilateral meetings and also in JCPOA joint commission as released in official statements is that they called for preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), he told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
They also underlined the fact that sanctions should remain removed so that Iran benefits from their removal, he added.
As stipulated in the statement released by European External Action Service (EEAS) Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, Europeans not only underlined keeping the JCPOA, but stressed Iran’s benefiting of sanctions’ removal.
Naturally any sanction under any pretext will not be compatible with this policy if it causes sanctions’ re-implementation, he added.
However, if some European countries are likely to pursue such measures as imposing non-nuclear sanctions on Iran to please the president of the United States, they will make a big mistake and will face its direct consequences on the agreement.
The UK, France and Germany have reportedly proposed new sanction on Iran to persuade the US to keep Iran deal officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to Reuters.
“Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran,” Reuters reported.
However, the EU said in a statement, ‘All participants underlined their continued adherence to JCPOA commitments and stressed the need to ensure its effective implementation in all its parts in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere.’
Report suggests Israel was deeply concerned that one of the men behind the ‘Novichok’ agent was in close cooperation with Damascus and repeatedly warned Moscow, but to no avail
A Soviet general behind the development of deadly nerve agent suspected of being used in the poisoning attack in the UK had raised concerns in Israel in the 1990s that he was trying to sell his knowledge to Syria and later died in mysterious circumstances, according to a report published Friday.
The general, Anatoly Kuntsevich, described as a leading chemical weapons expert had led the development of the a highly potent Soviet-designed nerve agent called Novichok, which Britain says was used on former double agent Sergei Skripal.
Amid the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kuntsevich began trying to sell his knowledge to the Syrians, according a report in the Ynet news site by Israeli journalist and author Ronen Bergman, whose “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,” was published earlier this year.
“It would seem that his business with the Syrians was not a government initiative but rather an attempt by him to look after his own interests,” he wrote, saying that Kuntsevich received “huge sums of money.”
Soviet soldiers working on a Sarin bomb. Shikhany CW facility, USSR, 1987. First pic: MOD. Others © Hans de Vreij
Israel repeatedly warned Moscow, but to no avail. “It was believed that (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin either could not, or did not want, to intervene,” the report said.
Bergman cites the book “The Volunteer”, which was published in Canada by “Michael Ross,” in which he claimed to be a Mossad agent and said he was repeatedly dispatched to warn senior Russian officials about Kuntsevich’s activities. Again, without any results.
“Israel was furious. On 29 April, 2002, in circumstances that remain unknown, Kuntsevich died during a flight from Aleppo to Moscow,” Bergman wrote. “The Syrians appear to be confident that the Israeli intelligence had succeeded in reaching and poisoning the general.”
Syria agreed to give up its chemical arsenal in 2013 when then US President Barack Obama threatened missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus during the country’s civil war. The attack is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people. Obama abandoned talk of attacking Syria after President Bashar Assad agreed to the weapons surrender.
However, Syria has since repeatedly been accused of using chlorine gas in attacks.
The attack with the nerve agent has caused a major rift between Russia and the UK.
On March 4, Skripal, once a Russian double agent, along with his daughter Yulia, and a British police officer, were poisoned with a rare and powerful nerve agent. Skripal and his daughter remained in critical condition as of Thursday, and the police officer was considered seriously ill.
Russia insists it had no motive to target Skripal with what Britain says was the first such attack in Europe since World War II.
Skripal had taken his daughter, who was on a visit from Moscow, out for lunch before they both collapsed on a bench.
Many Russians remain skeptical that the state was responsible and some analysts have not ruled out the involvement of ordinary criminals or rogue agents.
On Thursday, deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabko denied that Russia even had a program to develop the Novichok nerve agent.
“I want to state with all possible certainty that the Soviet Union or Russia had no programs to develop a toxic agent called Novichok,” he told Interfax news agency.
He slammed people “distributing information that the programme allegedly existed,” an apparent reference to Soviet chemist Vil Mirzayanov, who first revealed the existence of that class of ultra-powerful nerve agents.
Mirzayanov, who now lives in the United States, says Moscow invented the highly toxic nerve agent during the Cold War and used to make it in a Moscow-based institute where he worked until the early 1990s.
“We ended all research in the sphere of new military toxic agents after joining the (Chemical Weapons) Convention, and last year… all stockpiles of toxic agents were destroyed,” said Ryabkov.
He said the United States has failed to do the same.
“I hope that debates around the tragedy in Salisbury will not be a new pretext for the US to depart from what they have to do within the framework of their own obligations,” he added.
In a rare joint statement, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister Theresa May said “there is no plausible alternative explanation” to Russian responsibility.
The leaders said the use of a chemical weapon is “an assault on UK sovereignty” and “a breach of international law.”
On Wednesday, May expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, severed high-level contacts with Moscow, and vowed both open and covert actions following the attack, plunging UK-Russia relations to a level not seen since the Cold War.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Moscow would “certainly” expel some British diplomats in a tit-for-tat response.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned the United States against the “painful mistake” of pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“Considering what has been envisaged in the JCPOA in the field of research and development and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s continued measures to develop its peaceful nuclear capability, if the US makes the mistake of exiting the JCPOA, it will definitely be a painful mistake for the Americans,” Zarif told reporters on Friday upon his arrival in Tehran from the Kazakh capital of Astana.
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.
Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.
The Iranian foreign minister said US President Donald Trump has always sought “destroy the JCPOA,” both before and after he took office in January 2017, adding that Washington has committed broad violations in the implementation of the nuclear accord.
Trump has repeatedly described the JCPOA, which was negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama, as “the worst and most one-sided transaction Washington has ever entered into,” a characterization he often used during his presidential campaign, and threatened to tear it up.
The US president said America’s European allies must agree to tougher measures and new conditions until May 12, otherwise Washington would pull out of the deal.
The US under Trump has been seeking a revision of the deal and making modifications to it, including the conclusion of Iran’s missile program to the agreement.
Zarif further emphasized that the Islamic Republic is prepared for various scenarios.
“It has been fully foreseen in the JCPOA what measures the Islamic Republic of Iran would carry out if it cannot reap its (the agreement’s) economic benefits,” Zarif pointed out.
Washington has been accusing Tehran of not fulfilling its commitments under the deal.
This is while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has in several reports verified Iran’s commitment to the deal.
Earlier this month, the IAEA head once again confirmed Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, warning that any collapse of the deal would be a “great loss.”
“As of today, I can state that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments… If the JCPOA were to fail, it would be a great loss for nuclear verification and for multilateralism,” Yukiya Amano said on March 5.
Iranian officials have rejected the idea of making revisions to the deal, saying the US is in no position to alter or modify the JCPOA, which is backed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and is an international document.
Zarif said on Tuesday that the United States is “in no position” to set conditions for the 2015 nuclear agreement.
He said, “Mr Trump has made habit of being unpredictable and thus unreliable for anybody to engage with.”
An Iranian deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday the sacking of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shows Washington is set on pulling out of the JCPOA.
“Americans are determined to leave the JCPOA, and changes at the country’s State Department were made in line with this goal, or at least it was one of the reasons,” ISNA quoted Abbas Araqchi as saying during a meeting at the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy on Wednesday.
Trump on Tuesday fired Tillerson after a series of public rifts over policy. Tillerson’s departure had long been anticipated due to the clashes.
The US president said he and Tillerson had disagreed on many topics, but he specifically singled out their dispute on whether or not to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
Despite commitments by Moscow in the 1980s that it would dispose of its chemical weapons and refrain from developing them, Israel attempted to inform the Kremlin that its chief scientist was secretly selling development know-how to the Syrians. When the warnings were ignored, the scientist mysteriously died on a plane.
Ronen Bergman|Published: 03.16.18
One of the heads of the Russian chemical weapons program and the individual who was considered to be the head of the Novichok project—which saw the development of a series of nerve agents by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s ultimately used on UK soil earlier this month against former Russian agent Sergei Skripal—was for many years in the sights of an Israeli intelligence analyst.
Russia had already begun developing chemical weapons by the end of the Second World War, and possibly even beforehand. At the beginning of the 1970s, the country’s scientists began creating more lethal nerve agents, among them the “Novichok,” the production of which was overseen by General Anatoly Kuntsevich—a physics and organic chemicals expert considered to be one of the foremost expert in the field in the Soviet Union.
In the middle of the 1980s, under General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union declared that it would sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons. In 1987 the Soviet government announced that it would unilaterally bring to a halt its production and in 1989, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said that his country would “completely” abandon its production of poison gas.
Over the next decade, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and under the rule of President Boris Yeltsin, Russia experienced an economic collapse and was in need of help from the West.
The United States demanded that it be involved in disarming of weapons of mass destruction, especially chemical weapons, and Yeltsin appointed General Kuntsevich to serve as his liaison with the West. However, Russia apparently disposed of only part of its chemical weapons arsenal and proof of the fact that it failed to relinquish control of all the materials necessary for producing them quickly became knowledge among spies and journalists in the West.
Will Englund, a writer for the Baltimore Sun, published testimonies by a number of scientists and exposed the existence of the “Novichok.” One of the scientists accidentally touched the material and died. Others followed. Those who survived were prosecuted for speaking to Englund. A Russian banker and his secretary were killed after a small quantity of the material was spread on the handset of their telephones. The Russians insisted, however, as they are doing today, that they do not possess any such weapon. “We play by the rules,” Kuntsevich said at the time.
In the 1990s, worrying information began arriving in Israel indicating that Russia was conducting experiments for the development of chemical weapons more advanced than the simple mustard and nerve gases that they once had.
According to the information, the knowledge to produce the advanced weapons was supplied by Kuntsevich. It would seem that his business with the Syrians was not a government initiative but rather an attempt by him to look after his own interests.
In July 1995, under the guise of a regular work visit as part of the positive military relations that remained between the two countries, he began to establish personal connections with leaders in Syria, and received huge sums of money in exchange for divulging his knowledge and providing some of his equipment for developing deadly chemical weapons.
Some of the details of the deals reached the Israeli Mossad at the end of the 1990s. The Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, tried to warn leaders in Moscow about their general’s clandestine scheming but it was to no avail. It was believed that Yeltsin either could not, or did not want, to intervene.
In the book “The Volunteer”, which was published in Canada by “Michael Ross”, the author testifies that he was a Mossad agent and that when Israel realized that the pressure was not working, he was asked to pretend to be an independent researcher preparing to produce a documentary about gas warfare.
Ross claimed that he repeatedly contacted senior officials in the Kremlin and told them that according to the information in his possession, chemical weapons were being sold by Kuntsevich to the Syrians. The intention was to scare Moscow since the information was soon to be publicized. But this effort too, failed to yield results.
Israel was furious. On 29 April, 2002, in circumstances that remain unknown, Kuntsevich died during a flight from Aleppo to Moscow. The Syrians appear to be confident that the Israeli intelligence had succeeded in reaching and poisoning the general.
A top secret CIA document from the same period says that Syria managed, by the time of his death, to produce a large stockpile of particularly lethal chemical weapons. According to various other sources, during his final visit to Syria, Kuntsevich brought with him the blueprints for developing the “Novichok”. If Kuntsevich had not died on the way back to Moscow, the problems facing the West and particularly Israel could have been significantly more serious.
The chemical weapon that was produced as a result of Kuntsevich’s activities, so the Syrians claimed, were to be disposed of at a later date as part of a deal brokered by the Russians, in order to prevent an American strike.
It as this deal that led to Russia’s heavy military involvement in the Syra and transforming into a major influential power in the region.
Dr. Ronen Bergman, a senior correspondent for military and intelligence affairs at Yedioth Ahronoth and a contributing writer for the New York Times, is the author of Rise and Kill First : The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.
After Jerusalem condemns attack on former agent, Russian embassy in Israel says UK, other countries trying to draw Jewish state into ‘political and propagandistic campaign’
Russia on Friday told Israel not to be drawn into “a renewed anti-Russian hysteria” campaign after Jerusalem condemned the poisoning of a double agent in England that the UK and its Western allies have blamed on Moscow.
“The Embassy notes with concern attempts undertaken by the government of the United Kingdom and supported by some other foreign nations and a number of media outlets, to draw Israel into [a] political and propagandistic campaign, which was unleashed by London under the false pretext of Russia’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal,” the Russian embassy in Israel said.
The statement came after the Foreign Ministry on Thursday condemned “the event that occurred in Great Britain” but made no mention of Russia.
On March 4, Skripal, once a Russian double agent, along with his daughter Yulia, and a British police officer, were poisoned with a rare and powerful nerve agent. Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition, while the police officer is in serious condition.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering a nerve agent attack in Britain, ratcheting up tensions Friday in an increasingly global showdown over alleged Russian meddling abroad.
Johnson said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that Putin himself ordered the attack.
“Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision, and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision, to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War,” Johnson said.
Russia ordered a halt to high-level meetings with the UK and prepared Friday to expel British diplomats in retaliation for similar British moves — but still hasn’t said who will be kicked out or when.
Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats and taking other steps against Russian interests as the two nations’ relations sink to a post-Cold War low.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agencies as calling Johnson’s statement a “shocking and inexcusable breach of diplomatic propriety.” Peskov reiterated Russian denials of involvement in the attack that has left both Skripals in critical condition.
“We have never encountered this level of discussion on the global stage,” Peskov told reporters.
The source of the nerve agent used — which Britain says is the Soviet-made Novichok — is unclear, as is the way it was administered.
Russia denies being the source of the poison, suggesting it could have been another country, and has demanded that Britain share samples collected by investigators.
Separately, Israel’s Ynet news site reported Friday that Anatoly Kuntsevich, a former Russian general considered to have been the head of the Soviet Union’s Novichok development program, was once closely monitored by Israeli intelligence.
According to the report, Kuntsevich — who became Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s adviser for eliminating chemical weapons — began assisting Syria in the 1990s with establishing an advanced chemical weapons program, providing know-how and equipment in exchange for large sums of money.
Kuntsevich’s activities in Syria eventually became known to the Mossad, which raised concern in Israel and prompted then-prime minister Ehud Barak to alert Moscow to Kuntsevich’s efforts, which the report said were likely at his own initiative.
Kuntsevich, who died in 2002 mysteriously on a flight from Syria’s Aleppo to Moscow, had even brought instructions for producing Novichok during his last trip to Syria, according to a top-secret CIA document from the time cited by the report, although Syria’s development of advanced chemical weapons was likely hampered by his death.
Another day of rioting expected on Friday in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as Arabs protest U.S. and Israeli policy.
Dalit Halevi, 16/03/18
The National and Islamic Forces, the supreme coordinating body of the Palestinian Arab organizations, is calling on the Palestinian Arab public to hold mass rallies in a “day of rage” which will be marked on Friday after prayers in the mosques.
The public was called upon to reach all points of friction in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in protest of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
According to a statement published by the body, the “day of rage” is intended to convey a message to Israel that the “Palestinian people” would never forget the injustice done to them and would continue to act against the decisions on Jerusalem and the attempts to eliminate the Palestinian problem.
A similar statement was issued by the Coalition of Intifada Youth, which called on the public to confront the “occupier” at the outskirts of the cities in Judea and Samaria.
National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster pointedly blamed Russia and Iran for committing atrocities against civilians in Syria while reinforcing the United States commitment to help civilians and hold the Assad regime accountable for crimes against humanity.
“If Iran and Russia do not stop enabling the regime atrocities and adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions, all nations must respond more forcibly than simply issuing strong statements,” the three-star general said Thursday, speaking at an event at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum marking seven years since the start of the Syrian Civil War.
“It is time to impose serious political and economic consequences on Moscow and Tehran,” he added. “Assad should not have impunity for his crimes, and neither should his sponsors.”
The general further condemned Russia as responsible for a poisoning attack against a former Russian spy and his daughter that took place in England last week. The U.S. joined the U.K., Germany and France in issuing a joint statement this morning blaming Russia for the attack.
Vienna, March 16, IRNA – Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi who is in Vienna to take part in a meeting of the Joint JCPOA Committee said the developments ahead would not be so easy , hoping that the committee would reach a common understanding of status quo.
During bilateral meetings held so far in Vienna, cases of the JCPOA breaches by the United States were discussed, Araqchi told the Islamic Republic News Agency.
He said he has already met with EU, Russian, French and German delegations and meeting with other delegates is on the agenda.
The Iranian official said he held close consultations during the meetings, adding the stands of some countries were close to that of the Islamic Republic while some others took different stance.
‘The deadline set by Mr. Trump definitely runs counter to the pledges made by the United States because this will create an atmosphere of uncertainty and doubt about what might happen after the deadline expires. This will certainly cause the JCPOA not to be implemented successfully at this juncture and in our view this is clear violation of the agreement,’ he said.
On claims raised by the US administration about removing what it calls the flaws of the deal, Araqchi said ‘Our stance is quite clear and has no room for doubt. It is not possible to reopen or renegotiate the JCPOA. In our view, reaching a complementary agreement or adding an appendix or phrases, as are heard nowadays, is impossible.’
The 11th session of the Joint JCPOA Committee is to be held in Vienna Friday under chairmanship of Helga Schmid, the EU representative and Abbas Araqchi with participation of G5+1 envoys.