Turkey's Erdogan to discuss Aleppo truce with Putin

Published: December 14, 2016

ANKARA: Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said he would speak with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to try to rescue a Syrian ceasefire that would allow civilians to be evacuated from Aleppo.

“I will speak with Mr Putin again later in the evening,” Erdogan said during a televised speech in Ankara. “The situation on the ground is very fragile and complicated.”

Turkey, Russia and Syrian rebel groups on Tuesday confirmed an agreement had been reached for civilians and opposition fighters to leave Aleppo, Syria’s second city.

If implemented, the deal would mark the end of opposition resistance in Syria’s second city after years of fighting, and a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad.

Deadly clashes erupted in Aleppo on Wednesday, putting the deal for the evacuation of rebel areas on hold.

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Moscow, a key Assad ally that last year launched an aerial bombardment in support of his forces, said the Syrian army had resumed its operations in Aleppo after “an attack by the terrorists was warded off”.

But Erdogan accused Assad’s forces of breaking the deal and attacking civilians.

“We were hoping that a process of evacuation had begun for civilians and opposition from east Aleppo as a result of negotiations that I personally followed, unfortunately missiles have begun to be launched again,” the Turkish president said.

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“Therefore, we remain cautious,” he said, adding that the implementation of the ceasefire was the “last hope” for the people in Aleppo.

Erdogan also hit out at the United Nations for its failure to create a safe zone inside Syria to shelter refugees.

“Hey, the United Nations, where are you?” he said.

Erdogan said Turkey has finalised preparations for civilians to be evacuated from Aleppo to the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, near the Turkish border.

“We are also ready to embrace those who will come to Turkey,” Erdogan added.

Kerem Kinik, Turkey’s Red Crescent chief, told the official news agency Anadolu that 1,000 civilians who had been trapped at an Iranian militia checkpoint overnight as they were leaving Aleppo, had arrived in Idlib.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Tuesday that Ankara would “set up a tent city to accommodate up to 80,000 Syrian refugees fleeing Aleppo”.

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