National Security

Trump team in contact with Moscow on Syria: Russian diplomat

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Moscow is in contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team about the crisis in Syria, a senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

{mosads}”These are different people whom we have known for a long time already,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said, declining to name individuals, according to the TASS news agency.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Washington Post that he was unable to “to confirm information about contacts” between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team.

Bogdanov, who is responsible for Russian relations in the Middle East and Africa, said the Russian Foreign Ministry hopes U.S.-Russian relations on Syria will improve under Trump.

Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed the sentiment Wednesday, speaking at a forum in Moscow.

“Now, after the uproar of the U.S. election campaign is over, and soon a new president will arrive at the White House, we would like to believe that a chance will appear to smooth relations, which is important not only for the people of both countries but for ensuring international stability and security,” Putin said at an international forum in Moscow, according to multiple reports. He did not mention Syria specifically.

He said that he had recently spoken to Trump and that their “opinions coincided” and that the relationship between the two nations must be “straightened out.”

“Russia is prepared to meet the partner halfway,” Putin said, but argued that deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Russia were “not our fault.”

The president-elect accepted a congratulatory call from Putin the week after the election, according to his transition team.

Trump vowed warmer relations with Russia during the campaign, famously praising Putin as a strong leader and saying he would like to partner with the Kremlin to ensure peace in Syria and to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Critics of the president-elect continue to express concern about his allegedly cozy relationship with Putin.

Wednesday’s report follows news that Donald Trump Jr. reportedly held private talks with a pro-Russia figure in Paris last month that included how the U.S. might cooperate with Russia to bring an end to the ongoing Syrian civil war.
The Oct. 11 meeting reportedly included 30 diplomats, businessmen and politicians. It was hosted by a French think tank founded by Fabien Baussart, who, along with wife Randa Kassis, has worked with Russia to bring an end to the violence.

The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated sharply over the last decade. The Obama administration has been fiercely critical of Russia’s annexation of the formerly Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014. 

The administration last month terminated ceasefire talks with Russia over Syria in response to a Moscow-backed bombing campaign in the city of Aleppo.

“I think everyone’s patience with Russia has run out,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at the time.

Trump has criticized the Obama administration’s efforts to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad — who is backed by the Russian government — arguing that it would open up an opportunity for terrorist groups to enter the region.

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