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Trump, Turkey Call for Russia to Stop Backing Syrian Regime 'Atrocities'

Trump, Turkey Call for Russia to Stop Backing Syrian Regime 'Atrocities'

Monday, 17 February, 2020 - 06:30
Syrian civilians flee from Idlib toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

President Donald Trump has called for Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime's "atrocities" as he expressed US concern over violence in the Idlib region, the White House said Sunday.

Turkey's foreign minister also pressed his Russian counterpart over the attacks by Damascus on the last opposition-held bastion in the country.

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad made fresh gains Sunday as he intensified his assault on the holdout northwestern province of Idlib.

In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump "expressed concern over the violence in Idlib, Syria and... conveyed the United States' desire to see an end to Russia's support for the Assad regime's atrocities."

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib as part of a 2018 deal reached between Ankara and Moscow to prevent a regime offensive, but Syrian regime forces have pressed ahead regardless.

Four of the Turkish posts are believed to be encircled by Syrian forces, and Ankara has threatened to attack Damascus if they do not retreat by the end of February.

"I stressed that the attacks in Idlib must stop and it was necessary to establish a lasting ceasefire that would not be violated," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists at the Munich Security Conference, after he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Opposition supporter Turkey and Damascus ally Russia have worked closely on Syria in recent years despite being on opposing sides of the nine-year conflict.

A Turkish delegation will head to Moscow on Monday, after Russian officials visited Ankara last weekend but failed to reach a concrete deal.

War monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said regime forces "were in control of all the villages and small towns around Aleppo for the first time since 2012."

Regime forces have for weeks been making gains in northwestern Syria and chipping away at territory held by extremists and allied opposition factions, focusing their latest operations on the west of Aleppo province.

The Russian-backed offensive has triggered the largest wave of displacement in Syria's war, with 800,000 people fleeing since it began in December, the United Nations has said.

Backed by Russia, Iran and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, Assad's forces now control more than 70 percent of Syria and the president has repeatedly vowed to retake the entire country.

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