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Putin: Russia, US have narrowed their differences on Syria

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Moscow: President Vladimir Putin was both cordial and coarse in his year-end news conference today, saying the US and Russia have narrowed their differences on Syria and share the same view of how to settle the conflict.

He reserved his crudest language for Turkey, suggesting that some leaders of the NATO ally may have wanted to “lick the Americans in some of their private parts” by shooting down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border.

That miscalculation by Turkey was now hurting its own interests, Putin said at his marathon meeting with Russian and foreign journalists.

The Russian leader even gave a shoutout to Donald Trump, calling the Republican presidential candidate a “very bright and talented man.”

Speaking with emphasis and gesturing energetically throughout a news conference that lasted more than three hours and was televised live, Putin also vowed that the killing of a Russian opposition leader gunned down near the Kremlin in February will be solved and no one will be immune from prosecution.

Putin said the Russian air campaign in Syria, which began September 30, will continue until a political process begins, adding that Moscow would back the latest US proposals for a peace process in the civil war.

Commenting on relations with Washington, Putin said that Russia backs a US-drafted UN Security Council resolution on settling the crisis. The plan was presented by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Moscow earlier this week.

“In general, it suits us,” Putin said. “I believe that the Syrian authorities should be OK with it, too.”

He added that while the Syrian government “may not like some of it … Concessions must be made by both sides” to end the conflict that has killed more than 250,000 and turned millions into refugees since 2011.

The Russian plan for settling the conflict “strangely as it may seem, coincides with the U.S. Vision in its key aspects: joint work on a constitution, creation of instruments of control over future early elections, holding the vote and recognizing its results on the basis of that political process,” Putin said.

“We will help settle this crisis in every possible way, and we will try to find solutions acceptable for all parties,” he said. At the same time, he reaffirmed Russia’s stance on the key issue dividing Russia and the West, the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the Syrians themselves must determine who rules them.