Putin Wants Better Relations With Next U.S. President
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he wants to develop better ties with the United States no matter who wins next year's U.S. presidential election.
In his annual news conference with international reporters, Putin said he is ready to work with any president the American people elect.
He said his talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week indicated that the U.S. is ready to move toward "settling issues that can only be settled through joint efforts."
Regarding Syria, Putin said the Russian military operation will continue until a political process starts. And he said the Syrian people must determine who rules the country. He also said he does not know whether Russia needs a permanent military base in Syria.
On Turkey, which recently shot down a Russian warplane, Putin said he sees no possibility of overcoming the strained ties with the current Turkish leadership. He said he was shocked to see that Turkey hadn't tried to explain its action but turned to help from NATO instead.
And regarding Ukraine, the Russian president again denied that there are Russian troops operating inside eastern Ukraine where a pro-Russian separatist movement is fighting Ukrainian government troops. But he said Moscow never denied that "certain people" were there carrying out tasks "in the military sphere." He said Russia plans no sanctions against Ukraine, but will not extend preferential trade to Kyiv.
Putin had positive things to say about the Russian economy, saying it has "passed the crisis -- at least, the peak of the crisis."
US, Cuba Near Deal on Restoring Commercial Flights
U.S. and Cuban officials say they are nearing agreement on restoring regular commercial flights between the former Cold War foes after more than 50 years.
Delegations from both nations have been meeting in Washington since Monday to finalize the details of a deal they have been working on for several months.
Josefina Vidal, the director of North American affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, told reporters Wednesday in Havana the two sides have made progress on a memorandum of understanding, and are close to making a formal announcement.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department confirmed that progress had been made, but said the teams were still negotiating.
Several major U.S. airlines have expressed interest in establishing regular flights to Cuba, including American Airlines, Delta, United and JetBlue.