Here is CurrentHow’s Daily Briefing™ for the 28th of December, 2016 :-
1. Turkey, Russia agree on ceasefire plan for all of Syria: Report :-
Turkey and Russia have agreed a ceasefire for all of Syria that should come into force at midnight, Turkish state media said Wednesday, but rebel groups said no such official truce had been agreed.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the plan aims to expand a ceasefire in the city of Aleppo — brokered by Turkey and Russia earlier this month to allow the evacuation of civilians — to the whole country.
If successful, the plan would form the basis of upcoming political negotiations between the Damascus regime and the opposition, overseen by Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital Astana, it added.
But in a speech in Ankara after the report was published, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made no reference to the plan, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he could not answer on an issue “about which I don’t have enough information”.
A Syrian rebel source, who asked not to be named, told AFP in Beirut that details still had to be submitted to opposition fighters and said there was no agreement as yet.
“The armed revolutionary factions have not received any official proposal for a ceasefire in Syria,” Labib Nahhas, head of foreign relations for the powerful Ahrar al-Sham rebel group added on his official Twitter account.
“News talking about their approval of a ceasefire is incorrect.” Anadolu said both sides were working for it to come into force at midnight but gave no further details.
Ankara and Moscow have been on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, with Turkey seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.
But the two countries have recently started to cooperate more closely on Syria, especially after a deal in the summer to normalise ties battered by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane last year.
Turkey remained conspicuously quiet as Assad’s forces, backed by Russia, took control last week of Aleppo in the biggest defeat so far for the rebels in the civil war. Ankara has also hosted a succession of closed door talks between Russia and Syrian opposition rebels over the last weeks
Qatar-based channel Al-Jazeera said a new meeting is planned on Thursday in Ankara, this time between military representatives of Syrian rebels and Russia.
No date has yet been set for the Astana talks and Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the meeting was still at the planning stage. She emphasised that the talks were not intended to replace the peace process based in Geneva which has sought to find a solution for the Syrian conflict.
But the direct involvement of Turkey and Russia comes as Erdogan is increasingly expressing impatience at the role of the United States in Syria. Previous ceasefire plans had been brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. They met with only temporary success and failed to lead to a solution for the conflict.
It remains unclear how the latest ceasefire plan will apply to Fateh al-Sham, formerly the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which has worked more closely with the rebels since changing its name.
Erdogan had on Tuesday launched one of his most bitter attacks yet on US and Western policy in Syria, which he said was marked by broken promises.
He accused the West of not just supporting Kurdish militia that Ankara regards as a “terror group” but even Islamic State (IS) jihadists. The Turkish strongman said the West was failing to back Turkey’s own incursion inside Syria in support of pro-Ankara fighters to oust IS from the border area, which has taken increasing casualties in recent weeks.
But in an angry statement, the US embassy in Ankara rejected the “considerable misinformation circulating in Turkish media” about US operations against IS in Syria.
“Assertions the United States government is supporting Daesh (IS) are not true,” it added. In continued bloodshed, air strikes carried out by unidentified aircraft killed at least 22 civilians, including 10 children, in a village held by IS in Deir Ezzor province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syria’s conflict began in 2011 as an uprising against Assad but quickly morphed into a civil war after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.
The war has killed more than 310,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes.
2. Probe finds faulty wing behind Russian military plane crash :-
Recordings from the black box of the Russian military plane that crashed in the Black Sea Sunday have revealed that the crash happened because of a fault in its flaps, Russian media said.
The investigation into the plane crash suggested the flaps malfunctioned because of which the plane came down on Christmas day.
The Life news website says this led the pilots to lose control as the plane was at a critical angle, BBC reported.
The plane took off from Sochi in Russia where it had landed briefly for refuelling.
All the 92 passengers on board died in the accident. Among those killed in the fateful accident were 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble, as well as one of Russia’s best-known humanitarian, Yelizaveta Glinka. The choir was supposed to perform at a New Year concert.
The plane was heading for Latakia, Russia’s air force base in Syria.
3. At Pearl Harbour, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe pledges Japan will never wage war again :-
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor on Tuesday and offered his condolences for victims of the 1941 attack in a historical first visit for the Japanese leader.
In a joint visit to the sunken battleship USS Arizona with US President Barack Obama, Abe pledged Japan will never wage war again.
“President Obama, the people of the United States of America and the people around the world, as the prime minister of Japan I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who have lost their lives here,” Abe said.
“We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken.
“To the souls of the servicemen who lie in eternal rest aboard the USS Arizona, to the American people, and to all the peoples around the world, I pledge that unwavering vow here as the prime minister of Japan.”
Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the memorial, a centrepiece of the historic site.
The two leaders took part in a wreath-laying ceremony followed by a moment of silence.
“In Remembrance, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan” was written on one wreath and “In Remembrance, Barack Obama, President of the United States” on the other. Pearl Harbor was attacked on the morning of December 7, 1941.
“I welcome you here in the spirit of friendship,” Obama told Abe. “I hope that, together, we send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution.”
“Even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward,” Obama said against the backdrop of the USS Arizona, AFP reported.
Obama became the first US president in May this year to visit Hiroshima, the target of a 1945 US nuclear bomb.
Japan hopes to present a strong alliance with the United States amid concerns about China’s expanding military capability, Reuters reported.
“Hawaii has a very multi-ethnic population with a very large Japanese population,” Stanley Chang, a 34-year-old Democratic member of the Hawaii state senate, told AFP.
“I don’t think there is any feeling of antipathy towards the Japanese, 75 years after the attack.”
4. Snow falls in Sahara desert for the first time in over 3 decades :-
In the Sahara desert, a snow shower coated the dusty dunes near the Algerian town of Ain Sefra on December 19.
This is the first time in over three decades that snow has fallen in the Sahara desert. The last record is for February 1979, when a brief blizzard hit town.
The Sahara desert is one of the driest places on earth. It is also the largest hot desert in the world.
Photographer Karim Bouchetata took the incredible pictures of snow covering the sand.
“Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert, it is such a rare occurrence,” Bouchetata told the Independent. “It looked amazing as the snow settled on the sand.”
Bouchetata said the snow lingered a day before melting.
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