Wednesday, May 22, 2024
 
 

Turkey, Russia to hold talks as Syrian forces seize most of Aleppo province

EPA-EFE/STR
A road sign directing to the townds of Khan Sheikhoun, Aleppo, and Idleb is seen on the road leading to Khan Sheikhoun town in northwest Syria, 24 August 2019. Journalists were taken in a government-organized tour to the rebels-held town that was recently liberated by the Syrian army.

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Syrian government forces made major advances yesterday in the country’s northwestern Aleppo province, seizing most of the rebel-held region, state media said.
The advancement comes a day before a new round of Turkey-Russia talks on the situation. Turkey backs rebels looking to oust Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, whose government forces are supported by Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah.
Activists reported that Russian warplanes mounted heavy air strikes in Aleppo province, bombing villages and towns including Anadan, which was later seized by Syrian forces. Rebel military sources said opposition fighters had pulled back from the area, including Anadan and the town of Haritan.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Syrian forces had seized 13 towns and villages in the area: “In day one, they took an area where for eight years they could not take a single village”, it said.
Last week, Assad’s forces seized control of the important M5 highway for the first time in eight years. The M5 links Syria’s capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo. Sections of the road have been in rebel hands since 2012.
Turkish media reported that Turkey had been deploying hundreds of military vehicles and troops to Idlib, to reinforce its observation posts in the area, established under a 2018 de-escalation agreement with Russia.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that Turkish and Russian officials would discuss the issue in Moscow on 17 February. He added he told his Russian counterpart “that the aggression in Idlib must stop and that a lasting ceasefire has to be achieved now”.
Çavuşoğlu attended the Munich Security Conference, where he warned the US to work on the relations with Turkey: “We told them that we expected a sincere approach from the United States in line with the spirit of our alliance”, he said.
US President Donald Trump called on his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express concern over the violence in Idlib. The White House said in a statement that Trump conveyed Washington’s desire to see an end to Russian support for Assad’s actions and for a political solution to the conflict.
Erdoğan, however, said his military will drive back Syrian forces if they do not withdraw out of Idlib “before the end of the month”.
The war in Syria started with a popular movement against Assad’s rule that was brutally repressed. More than 380,000 people were killed in nine years and about half of the country’s population is displaced.

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