Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Mike Pompeo next week

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov have met several times including in New York and in Sochin, Russia, above. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2019

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Mike Pompeo next week

  • Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense US-Russia relations: unnamed officials
  • Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia

WASHINGTON: Russia’s foreign minister will visit Washington next week for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US officials said Friday.
Pompeo will host Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday for talks that are expected to be followed by a joint news conference, two officials said. It was not immediately clear if Lavrov planned other meetings during the trip, which was first speculated about in Russian media Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the planned meeting.
The officials said Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense US-Russia relations. But the trip is likely to be overshadowed by Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings that are picking up steam in the House, as well as the release Monday of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Lawmakers are expected to soon draft articles of impeachment that allege Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine unless its new leader pledged to investigate the son of his political rival Joe Biden.
Although the impeachment inquiry centers on Ukraine, which is fighting Russian-backed separatists in its east, Russia has been a major topic in the proceedings. Numerous witnesses have told investigators that Trump’s defenders are echoing a Russian disinformation campaign by accusing Ukraine of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called for investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference in the election despite the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow was behind it.
Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia. They have spoken by phone infrequently but have not held face-to-face talks in Washington.
Pompeo was not secretary of state the last time Lavrov was in Washington, when the Russian diplomat visited the White House with the former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and had a meeting with Trump in May 2017. That meeting occurred a day after Trump had fired then-FBI director James Comey, a move that led to the investigation into Russian meddling in the election by special counsel Robert Mueller.


Prayers at fire-bombed mosques as India’s riot toll grows

Updated 43 min 36 sec ago

Prayers at fire-bombed mosques as India’s riot toll grows

  • 180 men prayed on the rooftop of a mosque that was set on fire in the Tuesday unrest
  • The 72-hour clash between Hindus and Muslims left at least 38 dead and hundreds injured

NEW DELHI: Muslims in a northeastern neighborhood of India’s capital returned for weekly prayers at fire-bombed mosques on Friday, two days after a 72-hour clash between Hindus and Muslims that left at least 38 dead and hundreds injured.
Five days after they started, it was still unclear exactly what sparked the riots — the worst communal violence in New Delhi in decades — and the death toll at hospitals was continuing to rise.
“If they burn our mosques, we will rebuild them again and pray. It’s our religious right and nobody can stop us from practicing our religion,” said Mohammad Sulaiman, who was among about 180 men who prayed on the rooftop of a mosque that was set on fire in the unrest.
Tensions between Hindu hard-liners and Muslims protesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s Hindu-first policies had been building for months when they exploded Sunday night, on the eve of US President Donald Trump’s first state visit to India.
Kapil Mishra, a local leader of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party who lost his Delhi state assembly seat in recent elections, demanded at a rally Sunday that police shut down a Muslim-led protest in the city or else he and his followers would do it themselves.
And it appears they did.
Hindus and Muslims who had lived side by side for centuries attacked each other with guns and swords, metal rods and axes, leaving the streets where the rioting occurred resembling a war zone.
There was a heavy police presence in the neighborhood on Friday. On one riot-torn street, Hindus shouted “Jai Shri Ram,” or Long Live Ram, the Hindu god, as Muslims attempted to reach a mosque damaged in the riots.
Several Muslim residents told The Associated Press that most Muslim families had locked up their homes and fled the area.
The passage of a citizenship law in December that fast-tracks naturalization for some religious minorities from neighboring countries but not Muslims earlier spurred massive protests across India that left 23 dead.
The protest violence is the latest in a long line of periodic communal clashes that date to the British partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, when the country was split into secular, Hindu-majority India and the Islamic state of Pakistan.
The protection of India’s religious, cultural and linguistic diversity is enshrined in its constitution. But communal tensions have occasionally flared into deadly riots, beginning with partition itself, when Hindus living in what is now Pakistan migrated to India, and Muslims in modern India to Pakistan.
Clashes claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and people of other religions.
This week’s death toll marked the worst religiously motivated violence in New Delhi since 1984, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards, triggering a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 Sikhs in the capital and more than 8,000 nationwide.
In 1992, tens of thousands of Hindu extremists razed a 16th-century mosque in northern India, claiming that it stood on Ram’s birthplace. Nearly 2,000 people were killed across the country in the riots that followed.
The religious polarization that followed saw Modi’s right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party emerge as the single largest party in India’s Parliament.
In 2002, the western Indian state of Gujarat erupted in violence when a train filled with Hindu pilgrims was attacked by a Muslim mob. A fire erupted — it remains unclear whether it was arson — and 60 Hindus burned to death. In retaliation, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the state.
Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister at the time. He was accused of tacit support for the rampage against Muslims, but a court ultimately cleared him of wrongdoing.
Violent large-scale clashes between Hindus and Muslims last took place in New Delhi in 2014, months after Modi’s party came to power, in a largely poor neighborhood close to where this week’s rioting occurred. That violence left three dozen people injured.
Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who wrote a book about Indian riots, said the worst has been averted — at least for now.
“If it had reached the scale of Delhi 1984 or Gujarat 2002, it would have doomed Indian politics for many years to come and brought India closer to the kind of Hindu-Muslim polarization that the current ruling party would ideally want, but is finding it hard to manufacture,” Varshney said.
BJP leaders, who have sought to demonize Muslim protesters as a threat to India, may see some gain from the violence, Varshney said.
But it comes at a cost, the international perception that India under Modi has become ungovernable, he said.
Government spokesman Raveesh Kumar denied the Modi government had inflamed religious tensions in India and failed to protect minority Muslims.
“These are factually inaccurate and misleading, and appear to be aimed at politicizing the issue,” he said. “Our law enforcement agencies are working on the ground to prevent violence and ensure restoration of confidence and normalcy.”
He added that Modi had “publicly appealed for peace and brotherhood.”
“We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time,” he said.