BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest developments on the war in Syria and the tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing violence (all times local):
Russia’s U.N. ambassador says Moscow has been holding “very important” discussions with the United States on a possible cease-fire in Syria and hopes a meeting of key nations in Munich on Thursday will pave the way for new peace talks.
Vitaly Churkin told reporters after Security Council consultations on the Russian-backed Syrian offensive in Aleppo that “we’re not about to be apologetic about what we’re doing.”
He said “hopefully if and when the situation (in Aleppo) is corrected there will be more optimism for a political settlement.”
New Zealand and Spain called Wednesday’s council meeting and urged serious consideration of “a humanitarian pause” to enable assistance to get through to Aleppo.
Churkin said Russia would welcome a discussion on a pause “as something leading to a long-term permanent cease-fire.”
Britain has called on Russia to stop its aerial bombing in Syria and use its influence on President Bashar Assad to get a cease-fire and access for humanitarian aid — demands that Moscow approved in a Security Council resolution in December.
Britain’s U.N. envoy Matthew Rycroft told reporters that progress on those issues would get a Thursday meeting in Munich of nations trying to end the conflict “off to a more productive start.”
He spoke Wednesday, ahead of a Security Council meeting on Syria.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre stressed that improving the humanitarian situation “is the condition for a credible political negotiation.”
He says “the regime and its allies cannot pretend that they are extending a hand to the opposition while with their other hand they are trying to destroy them.”
Turkey’s prime minister has put the number of Syrian refugees in his country at more than 2.6 million.
Ahmet Davutoglu gave the figure during a news conference Wednesday with his Dutch counterpart in The Hague, Netherlands.
Officials had previously said there are 2.5 million Syrians registered in Turkey.
France’s foreign minister has denounced the “terrifying brutality” of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
In a speech at France’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday, Laurent Fabius also said there was “a complicity of Russia and Iran.”
Fabius was speaking a few hours after announcing he has decided to leave the government to head France’s Constitutional Court. He called for a cease-fire in Syria and reiterated France’s position in favor of peace talks.
France is a member of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.
The French government insisted on Wednesday that a political solution in Syria ultimately requires Assad’s departure.
Turkey’s prime minister has lashed out at the United Nations after it demanded the country open its borders to tens of thousands of more Syrian refugees, accusing it of failing to stop the Russian bombings that have triggered the exodus.
Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday he considered the U.N. Security Council “two-faced” for telling Turkey to open its borders while not moving “a finger to solve the Syria crisis” or to stop the Russian bombardments.
He also said the Syrian and Russian military operations were an attempt to drive out people who don’t support the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
By taking in the refugees that have fled the city of Aleppo, he said Turkey would be indirectly contributing to what he termed as an “ethnic cleansing.”
Turkey’s president has ratcheted up his criticism of the United States for not recognizing Syrian Kurdish forces as “terrorists,” saying Washington’s lack of knowledge of the groups operating in the region has led to bloodshed.
Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, which is affiliated with Turkey’s own Kurdish rebels as a terror group. The PYD however, is a key force in U.S. efforts to root out the Islamic State group in Syria.
On Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his position that the PYD was no different to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels, which the U.S. does consider to be a terror organization, or to IS.
Erdogan said: “You failed to know (these groups). That’s why the region is drenched in blood.”
Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador on Tuesday over the issue.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has fired back at the United Nations for demanding that Turkey open its border to tens of thousands of more Syrian refugees, accusing the world body of being ineffective over the refugee crisis and of not shouldering the burden like Turkey.
A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive around the Syrian city of Aleppo has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing to the Turkish border in recent days. Turkey, already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees, is also providing assistance to the new refugees on the Syrian side of the border. But it has not let them in, prompting UNHCR on Tuesday to call on Turkey to admit them.
Erdogan responded Wednesday by saying the U.N. had not assisted Turkey sufficiently.
He says of the world body “What is your use? … how many refugees have you taken in?”
Opposition activists and a rebel commander say Kurdish fighters have launched an offensive in northern Syria to attempt to capture a rebel-held military air base.
Maj. Yasser Abdul-Rahim, a rebel commander in the northern province of Aleppo, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the main Kurdish militia, known as YPG, is clashing with rebels near Mannagh air base.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says YPG fighters are trying to capture a former Syrian army air base that was lost to the opposition in August 2013.
The YPG has received backing from airstrikes launched by Russia, a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syrian troops have been on the offensive in Aleppo province for nearly two weeks in an attempt to besiege rebel-held parts of the provincial capital of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once commercial center.
Troops have captured dozens of villages in the area.
Turkey’s state-run agency says military officials have stopped a group of 34 people at the border with Syria and seized luggage containing four suicide vests and explosives.
Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed security sources Wednesday, said four men, 10 women and 20 children were stopped near the town of Oguzeli, in Gaziantep province. It wasn’t clear when they were detained, but Anadolu said that security forces had acted on a tip about plans to smuggle explosives across the border.
The luggage contained up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosives.
There was no information on the nationalities of those detained. The report didn’t say whether authorities believe the group may be linked to the Islamic State group.
Anadolu said an investigation was underway.
Syria’s state news agency SANA says opposition gunmen have opened fire on aid vehicles in the besieged rebel-held town of Madaya, near the capital Damascus, but no casualties were reported.
A SARQ official said on Wednesday that the convoy, which included vehicles from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, was evacuating sick people from Madaya when it came under fire by unknown gunmen.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the operation had been completed and people successfully evacuated.
Madaya, which has been besieged by government and allied militiamen for months, gained international attention after harrowing pictures emerged showing emaciated children and starving residents.
SANA said the shooting occurred late Tuesday night delaying operations for several hours.
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