|Date: Jun 1, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Russia says it’s Turkey’s duty to halt fighting in Idlib|
|Idlib truce must be applied, Erdogan tells Putin|
MOSCOW/ANKARA: The Kremlin said Friday it was Turkey’s responsibility to stop rebels in Syria’s Idlib province from firing on civilian and Russian targets, signaling it would continue to back a Syrian government offensive there despite Ankara’s protests. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin late Thursday that he wanted a cease-fire in Idlib to prevent more civilian deaths and a refugee influx to Turkey.
Erdogan also told Putin by phone that Syria needed a political solution, Erdogan’s office said in a statement.
The Turkish leader has repeatedly complained to Moscow about a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in the rebel-held northwest, the most serious escalation of the war between President Bashar Assad and his enemies since last summer.
The fighting has uprooted around 250,000 people in the territory, the last significant rebel stronghold, and one which borders Turkey.
The Kremlin made clear Friday however that it was for now unmoved by Erdogan’s calls for a cease-fire, saying the rebels were the ones who had to implement a ceasefire in the first instance.
“We really do need a cease-fire in Idlib and what needs to be achieved is for the terrorists to stop firing on civilian targets and on certain facilities where our troops are located,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked about Erdogan’s request for a cease-fire.
“This is the responsibility of the Turkish side.”
Russia has complained of rocket and drone attacks against its main Hmeimim air base being launched from the Idlib province, something Peskov described as “a highly dangerous tendency.”
He made no mention of the idea that Syrian government troops, backed by Russian air power, should stop fighting however, but denied Moscow and Ankara disagreed over Idlib.
Idlib truce must be applied, Erdogan tells Putin
ANKARA/BEIRUT: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib must be implemented to prevent more civilian deaths and an influx of refugees to Turkey, a statement from Erdogan’s office said.
Erdogan told Putin over the phone Thursday that Syria needed a political solution, the statement added.
Damascus and its ally Russia have pummeled Idlib province and surroundings over the past month despite a truce deal aimed at staving off a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says over 285 civilians have been killed since late April in the enclave, home to almost three million people.
“The pace of airstrikes decreased relatively on Thursday compared to previous days,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman.
But bombings still killed seven civilians, five of whom were in the town of Maaret al-Numan on the western edge of the militant-held territory, including three members of the Qasheet family.
Video shot by the Syrian Civil Defense showed volunteers working to pull bodies and survivors from under the collapsed building in Maaret al-Numan.
The volunteers from the group known as the White Helmets pulled away cement blocks to reach the lifeless body of a 14-year-old boy.
His father, standing behind the camera, wept, repeating his son’s name, Abboudi, as rescuers mulled how to lift the heavy structure. A large bulldozer stood nearby. In a bright blue shirt, Abboudi was face down, squeezed between two large cement blocks and there was a pool of blood under his nose.
Amid the frenzy, a younger boy emerged from a gap in the rubble with swollen red eyes, dusty hair and body, his shirt barely hanging on his torso. It was Abboudi’s younger brother, Hakam, just a few meters from his brother’s smashed body. Rescuers cheered and walked Hakam Qasheet out of the area.
His mother and another sibling, a girl, were also killed under the rubble.
The U.N. children’s agency said more than 130 children have reportedly been killed over the last month and nearly 30 hospitals came under attack. UNICEF warned that the escalating violence is putting the lives of tens of thousands of children in danger.
The agency said that children who bear “no responsibility” for the war suffer more than anyone. The emergency relief efforts are “quick fixes that can go only so far in mitigating the humanitarian fallout from such brutal and gratuitous violence,” UNICEF said.
The rebel and militant stronghold is home to some 3 million people. Bombs and shells rained on the crowded enclave, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing to safer areas in the north.
The U.N. has warned its humanitarian operations in the region are at risk.
UNICEF said its partners in Idlib had to suspend their operations while 43,000 children have had to leave school. Final exams for the academic year were postponed in many parts of the rebel-held enclave, affecting the education of 400,000 students living there, it said.ncies