Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/AFP/Getty Images

US President Barack Obama spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Thursday in their first direct contact in four months as the United States (...)

Russian President Vladimir Putin with US Secretary of State John Kerry:  on his first trip to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began. Photograph: Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Russian president Vladimir Putin in a bid to ease badly strained relations over the conflicts in Ukraine and (...)

Shia fighters from Hashid Shaabi forces walk with their weapons at the front line at the Shia Turkman village of Bashir, 20km south of Kirkuk on Saturday. Kurdish peshmerga forces, backed by Shia militia fighters, have been attacking Islamic State-held towns and villages south and west of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, peshmerga sources said. Photograph: Reuters

There is evidence that the Islamic State group used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against peshmerga fighters, Kurdish authorities in Iraq said.(...)

‘The New York Times this week reported what it called Obama’s and the West’s “quiet retreat from its demand that Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, step down immediately.”  That’s a euphemism for a very substantial policy U-turn, in effect an embracing of a morally dubious but pragmatic “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Above, President Obama gives his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. Photograph:  J Scott Applewhite/AP

If Obama is “turning the page” on domestic policy, as he suggested in his state of the union address, there is also a sense in which he is turning an (...)

A shrouded dead body lies on a gurney in a street following a reported air strike by government forces on the Bustan al-Bashar district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo yesterday. Photograph: Zein al-Rifai/AFP/Getty

US support for diplomatic initiatives in Syria underscores the shifting views of how to end the civil war there and the West’s quiet retreat from its (...)

Armed security stand outside a Jewish School as the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve meets police officers after a visit to the school in the Jewish quarter of the Marais district in Paris. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images 0:57

The common-law wife of one of the perpetrators of last week’s terrorist rampage in France crossed into Syria from Turkey on January 8th, Turkey’s fore(...)

Tribal fighters take part in a security deployment against Islamic State militants in the town of Amriyat al-Falluja, in Anbar province. The jihadists’ momentum in Iraq appears to be stalling. Photograph: Reuters

Islamic State appeared unstoppable after its blitz through Iraq this summer, with its battle-hardened fighters continually raising their black flag ov(...)

Kurdish refugees from the Syrian town of Kobani in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province today. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters

Fierce fighting is said to under way in a Syrian border town where Kurdish militiamen are struggling to repel advances by the Islamic State group.The (...)

Muslims perform a prayer today near the Turkish border with Syria for Kurdish fighters killed in Kobani while fighting against Islamic State. Photograph: Tolga Bozoglu/EPA

Islamic State fighters advanced deeper into the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border today, taking almost complete control of an area where the(...)

Syrian policemen  inspect the damage done to a school after two bombs were detonated in a mainly Alawite neighbourhood of Homs yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Sana

At least 32 people, including 10 children, were killed by twin bombings near an elementary school in Syria yesterday.The second blast went off as pare(...)