Assad Liberates Terrorist-Held Town Near Aleppo as Turkey-Russia Talks Approach

ALEPPO – Syrian government forces have made significant strides in the province of Aleppo, having regained control of most of the region held by Islamic militants, state media in the Arab Republic reported today, February 17. The troops of Bashar al-Assad over the past day significantly advanced their positions west of Aleppo. This happened in anticipation of the talks scheduled today for Russia-Turkey to de-escalate in northwestern Syria.

On Sunday, Russian aviation inflicted heavy blows on the positions of the militants of the Islamist alliance “Khayyat Tahrir al-Sham” (HTS, the leading role in its composition is played by the terrorist group “Jebhat Fath al-Sham” banned in Russia, the former “Jebhat al-Nusra”), including in the area of ​​the settlement of Anadan, which was then liberated by Syrian forces with the support of pro-Iranian militias, foreign monitoring organizations report. Islamic sources confirm that the militants retreated from the area, including Anadan and the city of Haritan.

“Syrian forces have occupied an area where for eight years they could not take a single village,” says the London-based NGO Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. – In this area, Syrian troops are moving very quickly. The militants left most of the area. ”

It has been reported that Assad has liberated over the past 24 hours thirteen cities and villages west of Aleppo.

Military experts attribute the successes of the Syrian army to the establishment last week of government control over the M-5 strategic highway (Aleppo-Damascus) along its entire length .

On February 12, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan . Discussions continued on various aspects of resolving the Syrian crisis, primarily in the context of the aggravation of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, the Kremlin’s press service said. The importance of the full implementation of the existing Russian-Turkish agreements, including the Sochi Memorandum of September 17, 2018, was noted. For these purposes, it was agreed to conduct additional contacts through the relevant departments.

“We discussed the situation in Idlib, in particular, the consequences of the actions of the Turkish military, the forces of the regime (Bashar) of Assad and Russia. A decision was made to hold meetings between the Turkish and Russian military in Turkey, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and intelligence of the two countries in Moscow. Meetings will be organized in the very near future, ”the Turkish leader said after a telephone conversation.

The Russian delegation, who came to Ankara to discuss at the request of Turkish partners the cessation of the offensive of the Syrian government forces in the province of Idlib, left Turkey earlier this week without reaching an agreement. Representatives of Russia arrived in Ankara on February 8, a few days after eight Turkish soldiers died as a result of shelling by the Syrian government forces. On Monday, February 10, when representatives of Turkey and Russia were negotiating in Ankara, a second incident occurred in Idlib, which killed another five Turkish soldiers.

The second round of negotiations between the interdepartmental delegations of Russia and Turkey will be held in Moscow today, February 17. “Much work remains to be done, we continue to actively cooperate with Russia on these issues. You will find out the final answer on Monday, after the meeting of our delegations in Moscow. We must not allow the Syrian problem to play down our cooperation and affect our relations, ”said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier . According to him, the upcoming talks between Russia and Turkey will show whether the countries will need another meeting.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov , in turn, noted that he hopes for effective negotiations, emphasizing that they will be in-depth substantive on the Russian side.

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