Marrakech (Morocco) (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned on Friday against Israel using peace talks as a "cover" to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank. Abbas was speaking in Morocco at a meeting of the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee amid heightened concern by Arab and Western nations over new Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The US-brokered peace talks must "not serve as a cover for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories," said Abbas.
Abbas says ‘there can be no peace without Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Palestinian state,’ adding that peace talks must ‘not serve as a cover for settlements. King Mohammed VI of Morocco slams ‘Judization of Al-Quds’
By Jonathan Saul LONDON (Reuters) – In recent weeks Russia has stepped up supplies of military gear to Syria, including armored vehicles, drones and guided bombs, boosting President Bashar al-Assad just as rebel infighting has weakened the insurgency against him, sources with knowledge of the deliveries say. Moscow, which is trying to raise its diplomatic and economic influence in the Middle East, has been a major provider of conventional weapons to Syria, giving Assad crucial support during the three-year civil war and blocking wider Western attempts to punish him with sanctions for the use of force against civilians. Syria has even said some countries formally opposed to Assad have begun discussing security cooperation with his government. Several sources told Reuters that Assad's forces had since December received deliveries of weaponry and other military supplies, including unmanned spy drones known as UAVs, which have been arranged by Russia either directly or via proxies.
Palestinian sources claim two Palestinians were moderately wounded when the IDF attempted to break up a protest being held outside the buffer-zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted on Friday that President Bashar al-Assad has no place in Syria’s future and he said the United States had options to step up pressure on him. Kerry will lead a U.S. delegation to Switzerland next week for peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels aimed at ending the country’s civil war. Syrian opposition groups are meeting in Istanbul to vote on whether to attend the U.N.-backed talks in Montreux on January 22. “I believe as we begin to … get into this process, that it will become clear there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he is going to be part of that future.
Full text of US President Obama’s speech on National Security Agency data collection programs, as provided by White House
After massive diplomatic debacle, Obama announces massive rehaul of NSA, promises not to ‘monitor communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.’ In bid to rebuild trust, he ‘instructed national security team to work with foreign counterparts to deepen coordination and cooperation’
By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. atomic watchdog said on Friday it needed extra money from member states to fund the 6 million euro ($8.2 million) cost of verifying a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will play a pivotal role in checking that Iran lives up to its part of the interim deal by curbing its disputed uranium enrichment activity in exchange for some easing of international sanctions that are severely damaging its oil-dependent economy. Israel, the United States and other western governments have long suspected Iran of using its nuclear energy program as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Tehran denies this, saying it needs nuclear power to generate electricity.