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Feb 12, 2014

Insight: In Ukraine standoff, echoes of U.S.-Russia Cold War tensions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine last July, U.S. diplomats got a private recap of the message he delivered behind closed doors to the country’s leaders. Ukraine, Putin warned, would not be allowed to stray from Moscow’s orbit.

Putin’s blunt talk was an unexpected sign of how hard Moscow would fight Western influence on Ukraine, U.S. officials say, prompting Washington and European capitals to step up their engagement with Ukrainian government and opposition forces.

Feb 7, 2014

Despite skeptics, Obama envoy sees Guantanamo jail’s days numbered

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is in talks with a wide range of countries to move “as aggressively as we can” in speeding up the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners, the State Department’s envoy said, as President Barack Obama tries to make good on a long-standing promise to close the prison.

Seven months after he was appointed to the job, high-powered Washington attorney Clifford Sloan said in a rare interview that the administration is in its best position in years to negotiate the repatriation of detainees, including to chaotic destinations like Yemen, or arrange their resettlement in countries other than the their homeland.

Jan 31, 2014

U.S. says works with partners to raise pressure on Syria on chemical arms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday it was working with partners to ratchet up pressure on Syria to accelerate removal of its chemical weapons after the United States accused it of deliberately stalling an international disarmament deal.

The Obama administration stepped up criticism of President Bashar al-Assad’s government as Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich amid a U.S. push for Moscow to do more to win cooperation from its ally Damascus.

Jan 31, 2014

U.S. hopes for ‘framework’ Mideast peace deal within weeks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration hopes to complete a “framework” accord in coming weeks between Israel and the Palestinians and will then seek to negotiate a final peace deal by the end of 2014, the U.S. mediator told American Jewish leaders.

Martin Indyk, the U.S. envoy seeking to defy widespread skepticism over the peace effort, said the framework would address core issues in the conflict, including borders, security, refugees and Jewish settlements, according to a participant in Thursday’s briefing.

Jan 30, 2014

U.S. accuses Syria of stalling on chemical arms handover

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday
accused Syria of dragging its feet on giving up its chemical
arms, putting at risk a deal to remove such weapons of mass
destruction from the country as it splits apart in a chaotic
civil war.

President Barack Obama this week touted the chemical weapons
agreement as one of the few U.S. diplomatic achievements on
Syria, but the State Department said just 4 percent of Syria’s
deadliest chemical agents has been shipped out of the country
for destruction at sea.

Jan 29, 2014

Obama urges Guantanamo closure this year, shift from ‘permanent war footing’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama told Americans on Tuesday that 2014 should be the year to finally close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay as the United States winds down its military role in Afghanistan and shifts away from a “permanent war footing.”

In his annual State of the Union address, Obama renewed his old vow – dating back to the start of his presidency five years ago – to shut the internationally condemned jail at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, and he called on Congress for further action to help him do so.

Jan 14, 2014

Biden assures Israel about core sanctions on Iran: U.S. official

SHANNON (Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that the United States is committed to enforcing its “sanctions architecture” against Iran even as world powers provide it with some relief in pursuit of a final nuclear deal.

In four hours of wide-ranging talks during Biden’s visit to Israel for the funeral of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the vice president briefed Netanyahu on an interim agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program and sought his views on efforts to reach a broader accord, a senior U.S. official said.

Jan 13, 2014

Israel honors Sharon at state funeral

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel paid homage to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the first of two funeral services to be held on Monday for a man hailed as a war hero at home but seen by many in the Arab world as a war criminal.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joined the somber ceremony in front of the Israeli parliament, Sharon’s coffin draped in the Israel’s blue and white flag, bathed in winter sunshine.

Jan 13, 2014

Israel boosts security for Sharon funeral near Gaza border

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel beefed up security for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral near the Gaza border on Monday and warned the enclave’s Palestinian rulers not to allow rocket fire during the ceremony, which U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will attend.

Sharon died at the age of 85 on Saturday after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke. A memorial service will be held on Monday in parliament in Jerusalem and an afternoon funeral near the Sharon family farm some 10 km (6 miles) from Gaza.

Jan 12, 2014

Biden to meet Israel’s Netanyahu during visit for Sharon funeral

SHANNON, Ireland (Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden will hold talks with Israeli leaders during a visit to the Jewish state as head of a U.S. delegation to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral on Monday, Biden’s office said.

Biden’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be a chance for the vice president to try to further Middle East peace efforts and ease Israeli concerns about nuclear talks with Iran, according to leading U.S. lawmakers flying with him to Tel Aviv on Sunday.

    • About Matt

      "White House correspondent who has covered news on four continents for Reuters, from Latin American coups and drug wars to the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles to the Balkans conflict to the second Palestinian Intifada to the Iraq war. He has covered George W. Bush and is now covering President Barack Obama."
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