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Syria And Russia Among Major International Stories Of 2016

MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: We're going to continue our reflections on 2016 by taking a few minutes to talk about some of the big international stories of the year. There's a lot to think about, from the Syrian refugee crisis to the terrorist attacks in many parts of the world, to the shocking decision by the U.K. to leave the EU.

I'm joined now by Abderrahim Foukara to talk more about this. He's the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Al Jazeera, and he was nice enough to join us in our Washington, D.C., studios. Abderrahim, welcome back. Thank you so much for joining us, and Happy New Year to you.

ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA: Same to you. Thank you.

MARTIN: Now, as I - you know, there are as many lists as there are news organizations and journalists about the biggest stories of the year, so we want your perspective on the biggest international stories of the year.

FOUKARA: Well, probably Syria is right up there, the fact that the Russians have helped the Syrian president re-establish control over Aleppo. And that's been bolstered by, you know, the ceasefire throughout Syrian territory except parts of Syria controlled by some groups considered by the Russians and others as terrorist groups. That's going to have implications for all the neighbors but particularly a neighbor like Turkey right across the border from Syria.

MARTIN: We want to talk about Russia for a second - their role in the Syrian war. The country has been very much on the minds of Americans with the alleged hacking, the incoming president's seeming warmth toward Vladimir Putin. And now we have President Obama in the waning days of his presidency using his executive power to expel 35 Russian diplomats.

Give us your take on this and how you see that - the U.S. and Russian relationship going forward.

FOUKARA: Given, you know, the complexities of the world that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will be operating in, it seems to me that that's going to be a short-lived honeymoon once Trump actually gets into office.

When President Obama announced sanctions against Russia, we've already seen how Donald Trump has reacted to that, but especially we've seen how Vladimir Putin has reacted to it, saying, I'm not going to resort to tit for tat. I'm going to wait until Trump is in office. But the realities and the complexities of the world probably tell me that maybe in a year's time, we'll see Putin and Trump going in a different direction.

MARTIN: Well, going forward, then, what are the big international stories that you will be keeping your eye on in 2017?

FOUKARA: Definitely Syria - also the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. When the battle to liberate Mosul started, there was some prediction that by the time Donald Trump or the next president - it was said at that time - takes over from Barack Obama, the fight will be mostly over. We have found out that the battle to liberate Mosul is proving much more complicated than originally predicted. So Iraq is going to stay right up there in terms of the order of priorities.

I also see the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians and how it impacts major powers such as the United States. I also see that as coming back to some sort of attention, particularly in the wake of the resolution against Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territories at the United Nations Security Council.

So you know, these are probably some of the big stories that especially we as journalists are going to have to keep an eye on and will be covering.

MARTIN: That's Abderrahim Foukara. He is Al Jazeera's Washington, D.C., bureau chief. He was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C., for this look back at the big international stories of 2016. Abderrahim, thank you so much for joining us once again as always - and looking forward to more conversations in the New Year. Thank you.

FOUKARA: Happy New Year to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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