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Assad conditions Erdogan talks on Turkey exit from Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he will only meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if Turkey withdraws troops from northern Syria, according to a Russian media interview published on Thursday.

His comments come one day after he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is seeking to repair ties between Erdogan and Assad severed after the 2011 Syrian war.

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Official: EU foreign policy chief unwelcome in Israel

Israel has signaled to the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, that he is not welcome to visit following critical comments he made about Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

The incident marked the latest sign of deteriorating relations between Israel' s new far-right government and some of its closest allies.

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Syrians mark 12th anniversary of anti-regime uprising

Thousands of Syrians demonstrated in the war-ravaged country's rebel-held northwest on Wednesday, marking 12 years since the start of pro-democracy protests and rejecting any international "normalization" with Damascus.

The brutal repression of the 2011 protests, which began during the Arab Spring uprisings, triggered a bloody and complex civil war that has claimed more than 500,000 lives and left millions displaced.

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Saudi finance minister: KSA could invest in Iran 'very quickly'

Saudi Arabia could start making investments in Iran "very quickly" after they agreed to restore diplomatic ties, the Saudi finance minister said on Wednesday, despite sweeping US sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Mohammed Al-Jadaan said there were "a lot of opportunities" in Iran and that he couldn't see any reason to prevent investments taking place between the two Gulf heavyweights.

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Analysis: Syria rebuilding hopes dim as war enters year 13

The recent deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria which caused billions of dollars in damage has boosted the prospects of Syria's once widely shunned president return to the Arab fold, but appears unlikely to jump-start large-scale reconstruction in the war-ravaged country.

As Syria's conflict enters its 13th year Wednesday, President Bashar Assad's government still refuses to make concessions to his domestic opponents, rejecting long-standing demands by the United States and its allies as a political solution remains elusive.

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Why US troops remain in Iraq 20 years after 'shock and awe'

Twenty years after the U.S. invaded Iraq — in blinding explosions of shock and awe — American forces remain in the country in what has become a small but consistent presence to ensure an ongoing relationship with a key military and diplomatic partner in the Middle East.

The roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are scattered around the country, largely in military installations in Baghdad and in the north. And while it is a far cry from the more than 170,000 U.S. forces in Iraq at the peak of the war in 2007, U.S. officials say the limited — but continued — troop level is critical as a show of commitment to the region and a hedge against Iranian influence and weapons trafficking.

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Putin hosts Assad, expected to focus on rebuilding Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hosted Syrian leader Bashar Assad in the Kremlin for talks expected to focus on rebuilding Syria after a devastating civil war and mending Damascus' ties with Turkey.

Welcoming Assad at the start of the meeting that comes on the anniversary of Syria's 12-year uprising-turned-civil war, Putin emphasized the Russian military's "decisive contribution" to stabilizing the country.

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Netanyahu critics urge Germany, Britain to cancel his visit

Hundreds of Israeli writers, artists and intellectuals on Tuesday called on Germany and Britain to cancel upcoming visits by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying his plan to overhaul Israel's judicial system has put the country on a destructive course.

Netanyahu's coalition, a collection of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, has barreled ahead with legislation that aims to weaken Israel's Supreme Court and give them control over the appointment of the nation's judges.

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Ex-Jordanian official hospitalized after hunger strike

A former top Jordanian official imprisoned in an alleged plot against the Western-allied monarchy was rushed to the hospital over the weekend after a three-week hunger strike, the man's American lawyer said.

Bassem Awadallah, who is a dual Jordanian-American citizen, was suffering from low blood pressure and sugar levels when he was hospitalized Saturday, his representatives said.

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Netanyahu allies push on with bill to weaken Supreme Court

Israel's parliament on Tuesday advanced a bill that would let lawmakers pass laws that the Supreme Court cannot overturn — a key piece of legislation in Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies' proposed judicial overhaul that has divided the country.

Netanyahu's governing coalition of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties has pressed ahead with its legislative blitz despite calls for compromise and demonstrations that have drawn tens of thousands of Israelis to the streets over the past two months.

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